Child marriages iniquitous

The Chronicle

Stephen Mpofu, Perspective

The marriage of girls under 18 years of age which has taken place in Zimbabwe under various methods and in virtual perpetuity must go – and go yesterday – both rhetorically and practically to give the girl child a matrimonial renaissance under the Second Republic and in all postmodern Zimbabwe.

The Marriage Bill recently passed by Parliament should, on becoming law, be regarded by all of Zimbabwean society as a herald of the liberation of the girl child from conjugal slavery perpetuated by parents or relatives under customary or personal aggrandisement and under which, in the latter case, poor girls being used as bridal sources of enrichment for parents or relatives in whose custody the poor girl was raised.

There are cases, for instance, where a girl child is married by parents to a man as compensation for damage caused by her parents to the other family or a rich family as a source of wealth for her poor parents or for various reasons amounting to deprivation of the child’s right to personally choose her life marriage partner.

The sum total of the ways under which the poor girl child was literally enslaved deprived her not only of choosing her own life partner but of probably greater significance, pursuing her education and making the right career choices for the country’s political or economic development as derivatives of her freedom.

The Marriage Bill was passed on Monday this week by the National Assembly following amendments made to the proposed law by Senate last month so that, on becoming law after the President’s assent, parents and guardians who participate in child marriages will face the full wrath of the law.

The legal prohibition of child marriages speaks loudly and clearly that under no circumstances shall any person contract, solemnise, promote, permit, allow or coerce or aid or abet the contracting, solemnising, promoting, permitting, allowing or coercion of the marriage, unregistered customary law marriage, civil partnership, pledging, promise in marriage or betrothal of a child.

The above might sound a mammoth task to many – as it indeed does – but it is the job that members of parliament and traditional leaders must perform indefatigably for our nation to move with the times.

The generality of Zimbabweans in various rural communities, in particular, might feel deprived of their right in solemnising marriages, so it behoves on members of parliament and traditional leaders out there to make sure that the new law on child marriages is implemented to the latter.

It is also possible that some run-off-the-mill political parties might try to ingratiate themselves with the villagers for support by de-campaigning the Zanu-PF Government by claiming that it deprives the people of practices they performed since time immemorial, including when this country was under white colonial rule before independence in 1980.

But be that as it may, the empowerment of the girl child from enforced conjugal bedroom traumas through customary marriages is a MUST transcendental movement of our society with the times and must not be compromised through cheap political propaganda by anyone whose pride feels injured by the ban on child marriages, which are oppressive to say the least.

Kudo’s to parliament for a job well done which should elicit deafening ululations and shouts of “hooray” across the country.

But when the celebrations pass away the onus remains on the liberated and empowered girl child to redefine her destiny by regarding the new development as a legal rebirth for her to mount up higher and higher in life as if by the eagle anointing so that only the sky becomes the limit.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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