The First Lady Grace Mugabe has called for the castration of perpetrators of child sexual abuse as a way of deterring would-be offenders.
Officially launching the African Union campaign to end child marriages Zimbabwe chapter in Harare yesterday, Amai Mugabe expressed concern over some judges who were lenient with offenders of child sexual abuse by passing light sentences such as community service or a wholly-suspended sentence.
She said stiffer penalties such as castration of the offenders or a mandatory sentence could deter those of the same mind.
“Handina kana basa nazvo, ndinoti ngavadimurwe nekuti zvinorwadza,” she said. “Kana usati wazviitirwa haunzwe kurwadza kwazvo, zvikange zvakuitikira mumba mako ndipo paunonzwa kurwadza kwazvo, zvekuti unotoritora bhemba kuti uende unodimura munhu.” (They must be castrated because their actions cause pain to others).
Amai Mugabe described men who sexually abuse children as evil and nefarious, adding that men of integrity know where to ‘saw their seed of life’.
She also spoke against religious, traditional and some social practices that encourage child marriages.
Amai Mugabe implored girls to be responsible with their lives and ‘stop seducing men’ as some were in the habit of seducing men for the love of money and gifts.
“Vana hamusisina matyira kuzvikoro uko,” she said. “First things first, your first husband should be your education.”
As follow up to the campaign launch, Amai Mugabe urged relevant Government ministries to come up with an action plan on ending child marriages.
She said priorities should include harmonisation of laws in line with the Constitution, keeping girls in school until they finish their primary and secondary education, giving a chance to education for young brides and putting in place child protection mechanism.
Amai Mugabe, who was handed a petition from women and girls in Zimbabwe at the event chronicling their concerns, promised to do all she can to protect girls.
The two main demands in the petition were to make it law that no one should marry a child below the age of 18 and to ensure that all children have access to free education.
Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister Nyasha Chikwinya told delegates attending the launch that Zimbabwe was among the top 30 countries with a high prevalence rate of child marriages.
She said Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West provinces were worst affected, with 50 percent and 42 percent respectively of all those in marriages having been married before they reached the age of 18.
Bulawayo and Matabeleland North provinces had the least number of girls who got married before 18 years, accounting for 10 percent and 18 percent respectively.
“Poverty, religion and culture have been identified as the main causes of child marriages,” said Minister Chikwinya.
She said there was need to re-look into the Customary Marriage Act, which does not state the age from which a girl should be married.
Speaking at the same occasion, President of the Chief’s Council Chief Fortune Charumbira said the Zimbabwean culture did not encourage child marriages.
He said in the past, women used to get married between the ages of 20 and 25.
“As custodians of the culture which is cited as one of the reasons of child marriages, I am here to pronounce that traditional leaders in Zimbabwe want to say no to child marriages,” he said.
African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Dr Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko commended Zimbabwe for launching the campaign, saying it provided a platform for the country to raise awareness on the implications of child marriages.-Herald