By Mlondolozi Ndlovu
There is need for all Zimbabweans to seriously take part in the fight against the scourge of early Child marriages considering the rise in the number of such incidents.
Last week this writer attended a dialogue to contribute towards the ending of early child marriage in Epworth hosted by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and a lot of touching issues on this matter were raised.
Among the major causes that were highlighted by the residents as being responsible for the rise of this scourge include but are not limited to:
Poverty, archaic religious believes, the internet and new technology, little knowledge on the effects of early child marriages and above all cultural believes that normalize these child marriages.
Speaking during this event one of the participants who is a mother of 6 explained concern of the ways Zimbabweans courts were handling some of these child marriage issues.
‘I am saying this from the bottom of my heart some of the cases are horrible. We took a child who had been raped to Mbare magistrate court and the only punishment that the offender was given was community service’ said the concerned mother.
Another resident from Epworth also bemoaned the less harsh/no sentences for victims of child marriages saying it was the cause for the perpetrators to continue having sex with young children.
Participants at this ZHRC organised event also called on the government of Zimbabwe to put a law which criminalizes the scourge as rape.
Indeed this can go a long way in ending unabated case where young people are married whilst there are supposed to finish their school and prepare for a brighter future.
Musasa Project Director, Letty Msani also noted that of the 22000 marriage related domestic violence cases they received, 70% of them were of children below the age of 18.
This is indeed a worrying phenomenon and does not only require experts child protection to be speaking from hotels and conference rooms, but to get to the grassroots and solve the concerns of these young people most of them girls who lose prospects for a better future at a tender age.
With such incidents occurring it is therefore necessary for the government to create a fund for the ‘children’ who are impregnated at such an early stage so that they take care of their ‘children’.
There is also need for the Ministry of Women affairs to fast track a campaign for mandatory rape sentence for the would be offenders, in this way the problem can be reduced.
During the meeting churches were named as one of the places where the so called prophets claim to have dreams about young and beautiful girls and then request for their hand in marriage, what a shame!
The police must join hands with organisations such as the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) and all churches to bring these perpetrators to book, because once churches becoming a breathing ground for such criminals then our society is no longer safe for the girl child.
One of the astonishing revelations at the event was how politicians were ‘feasting on young girls during election campaign periods’ such that one man noted with dismay how more girls got pregnant each year after elections.
We hope the commission took note of such unfortunate incidences of gross human rights violations by these shameless politicians.
When all has been said the war on early child marriage is no longer one for donor organisations and women rights activists but must be include all progressive citizens to end this evil.