Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Government is working on a Bill to align the country’s marriage laws as part of wider efforts to eradicate marriage of children below the age of 18. This was said by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also responsible for the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs while debating a motion calling on Government to domesticate provisions of the sadc Model Law prohibiting child marriages adopted in 2016.
The motion was moved by Matabeleland South Senator Cde Tambudzani Mohadi.
We are already working on a Bill. The Ministry of Justice is aligning all the marriage laws and the progressive provisions suggested in the sadc Model Law will be incorporated, VP Mnangagwa said.
“There will be amendments to the Marriages Act, the Customary Marriages Act and all other outdated laws that deal with marriages. The Constitutional Court has also ruled that all persons below the age of 18 must not consummate marriages and that will also be reflected in the Bill,” he said.
The Constitutional Court outlawed marriages of children under the age of 18 in a land mark ruling handed down last year and VP Mnangagwa said a Committee had been set up to find ways to synchronise the Court’s ruling and the current age of consent, which is currently 16 years and other attendant issues.
VP Mnangagwa said Government had since agreed to raise the legal age of consent to 18 adding he would also take parliamentarians concerns into account when the Bill was brought to parliament. Mashonaland Central Senator Monica Cde Monica Mavhunga, said it was important to align the country’s marriage laws with the sadc Model to ensure the safety of girls and promote their development.
“Early marriages are detrimental to the future of young girls and also exposes them to diseases such as HIV and Aids and other reproductive challenges as they are not mature enough to bear children,” she said.
Midlands Senator Mr Morgan Komichi said it was necessary to address the root causes of child marriages.
“While it is important to craft laws that prohibit child marriages, it is also necessary to address the issues that drive these children into early marriages. Some of these issues include religion, cultural practices and poverty.
“These are some of the issues that we also need to look into if we are to deal with the problem holistically,” he said.
Cde Darmian Mumvuri (Mashonaland Central) added that it was time to take practical measures to deal with the problem.
“The issue of child marriages has become a topical issue in parliament and the reasons for its perpetuation have been identified and solutions proffered, but not implemented fully,” he said.