Zimbabwe activists call for tougher action against youngster marriages

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Thobekile Mpofu was 15 when she got pregnant to a 41-year-old man who rapidly accepted responsibility and married her, avoiding feasible legal action for obtaining sex with an underage girl.

Kid rights activists on Thursday launched a campaign to contact on the authorities to crack down on men utilizing marriage to stay away from criminal charges for obtaining sex with a minor, one particular of the aspects fuelling the quantity of kid marriages in Zimbabwe.

Figures from the United Nation’s youngster agency, UNICEF, show that 1 in nine girls aged beneath 15 in Zimbabwe are married, with kid marriage frequently ending a girl’s education and exposing her to wellness dangers from early childbearing and HIV.

Mpofu stated her marriage was a “nightmare” and she ran away from her husband right after he took a second wife. She says she has nothing at all but regrets ten years on for becoming married so young which she hopes will not occur to other girls.

“I cannot wish this on any individual … I fled to South Africa to my sisters. That’s how the marriage ended,” stated Mpofu who, with each other with her youngster, now lives with a relative in Bulawayo.

The campaign calling for authorities to do more to quit kid marriages was launched by the Research and Advocacy Unit, Girls Legacy, the Zimbabwe Ladies Lawyers and Human Rights Watch.

Girls Legacy Director Judith Chiyangwa questioned no matter whether the government was committed to act regardless of mounting stress.

“Is there political will to do this?” Chiyangwa asked.

The precise scale of child marriage in Zimbabwe is not recognized as most youngster marriages are unregistered customary law unions.

A 2014 survey by Zimbabwe’s National Statistics Agency identified 1 in 3 females aged 20 to 49 reported that they married prior to age 18 although an estimated 4 percent marry prior to age 15.

But Zimbabwe has conflicting legal provisions on the minimum age for marriage. Its constitution does not expressly prohibit kid marriage and a quantity of laws properly condone it.

Extreme poverty, poor access to education, and particular dangerous religious beliefs and social norms fuel child marriage in Zimbabwe, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

A recent UNICEF report stated an estimated 125 million girls are youngster brides in Africa and that number is anticipated to rise to 310 million by 2050 with girls married to spend off family members debt or for conventional reasons.

Jane Khumalo, a teacher and counselor in Bulawayo, said typically households allowed their daughters into these marriages, specifically if they have been pregnant, since they could not afford to appear soon after them.

“Marriage becomes the only factor that makes sense in these challenging economic situations,” Khumalo said.

Kuda Chitsike, director of the Analysis and Advocacy Unit, a rights group in Zimbabwe, stated calling this child marriage was “to legitimize kid abuse”. It is illegal to have sex with a girl aged under 16 in Zimbabwe.

The country’s chief magistrate, Mishrod Guvamombe, this week said youngster marriages are a violation of child’s rights.

Jessie Majome, an opposition legislator who chairs the parliamentary committee on justice, legal and parliamentary affairs, said kid marriage continued simply because of the collapsed economy and known as for tougher enforcement of existing laws.

“(Marrying a kid) is a extremely severe criminal offence but if the law is not completely enforced, then we will continue having this issue,” Majome told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

(Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Check out www.trust.org)

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