The Parliament of Zimbabwe has called on the government to adopt the Southern African Development Community Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriages to criminalise child marriages amid reports that some 4 500 pupils could not write Grade 7 examinations because they had been impregnated or married.
Most children in Grade 7, the last year of primary school, are 12 years.
Mutare legislator, Innocent Gonese who moved the motion, said it was crucial for Zimbabwe to enact the law because the country’s Constitutional Court had already ruled it illegal for anyone to marry a girl under 18.
“Our Constitution is very clear; anyone below the age of 18 is still a child,” Gonese who is a lawyer said.
“We all celebrated when the Constitutional Court in the celebrated case of Mudzuru and another versus the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and another, when the highest court in the land made a pronouncement that child marriage was unconstitutional.
“We all ululated and we all clapped our hands but at the end of the day, that judgment is simply a declaratory. It simply restates what is in the Constitution but it does not deal with the real issue, which is the criminalisation of child marriage.
“Without that criminalisation and without criminal penalties, the challenge that remains with us is that it simply becomes a judgement which is not being enforced. Because, at the end of the day, nothing is happening to those people who are abusing the young girls and the young boys.”
Gonese said it was disheartening that Education Minister Lazarus Dokora had recently pointed out that some 4 500 primary school pupils could not proceed to Form 1 because they had either fallen pregnant or married.
The model law, Gonese said, would not only criminalise child marriages but would also void all existing child marriages if one party went to court.