The draft Marriages Bill has generated much interest in our society. It occurred to me that I should lend my thoughts to the discussion, firstly as a pastor and secondly as a Law graduate.
I, however, would not have done justice to this discussion if I don’t mention the unequivocal prohibition against child marriages in Section 3 of the proposed Bill.
This particular section is couched in imperative language and even adds a criminal sanction to ensure compliance.
This is definitely commendable, and I believe this move will go a long way in affording numerous children stuck in the clutches of cultural and religious norms that have destroyed countless futures at the altar of “culture” or “religion” long awaited legal protection.
This section, particularly subsection 5, has generated a lot of debate among Zimbabweans and different groups.
Firstly, this section, as it is currently formulated, threatens to impinge upon the very sanctity of marriage as the majority of Zimbabweans know it and certainly as the Bible defines it. Civil marriage by its very nature, and surprisingly, as even stated in the Draft Bill Section 5 itself, is to the exclusion of all other marriages.
Then how does section 40(5) purport to then impose a certain kind of relationship, which can circumvent the sanctity of this civil marriage?
How then does it exist to the exclusion of all others when the civil partnership is for all intents and purposes a certain kind of “marriage”, which seeks to impinge with impunity upon the sanctity of this civil marriage? Please bear in mind that the customary marriage cannot coexist with the civil marriage, but seemingly, this civil or shall I say evil partnership, can?
What really is this civil partnership in our Zimbabwean context? Do we see a nefarious extension of the definition of marriage?
Would it be fair, based on section 40(5), to assume that this is a way of legalising the concept of the “small house?” If that is the intention, then we potentially have other boomerang effects as well.
The issue of adultery is set to become irrelevant in our laws. Recognition of the civil partnership will undoubtedly deal a death knell to this vital component of civil marriage. The fact that a civil marriage has meant that neither of the two parties was able to lawfully enter into any other relationship with a member of the opposite sex outside of the civil marriage seems to come under threat should section 40(5) be enacted as it is currently formulated.
The family unit is arguably the very foundation of our national values. The biblical view is that marriage is between one man and one woman that is why ministers of religion only solemnise civil marriages.
It is my opinion that section 40(5) may cause the erosion of our long held family values and definition of marriage and family. The problem we are faced with is that the Western philosophy of accommodating man’s evils, usually under the guise of changing morals of society, will never work.
If every time we find that Man can’t control himself we accommodate that lack of control, where is our society headed?
It is my opinion that we are likely to see an escalation of divorces as men and women can in theory have their own civil partnerships on the side. Section 25(c) of the Constitution bestows equal rights and obligations to the parties to a marriage, meaning that it will be open season with all its attendant consequences such as domestic violence, etc.
I believe we are also likely to see a rise in fatherless homes as well, and I believe studies into the deviant behaviour of “unfathered” children have been well documented and are outside the scope of my brief article. I will not even go into the debate on ilobolo or roora as the civil partnership pays scant regard to those cultural norms as well.
Whatever malady that the law seeks to cure, destroying the sanctity of marriage is not the solution. As someone famously said, you can’t pull down the strong to strengthen the weak. I therefore, humbly submit that this particular section will be detrimental to the marriage institution, family life and ultimately our beloved society.
The following are some of the questions that may arise:
a) Is it goodbye to marriage as we know it and open season for the so called slay queens?
b) Are we the generation that will be remembered as having presided over the escalation of the moral decay of our society and the subsequent breakdown of the family unit?
c) Have we, as a community, now decided to live by preference and not conviction?
d) What platform are we setting for our children and our children’s children?
e) After this act, what other societal norm are we sacrificing next on the altar of changing societal values and preference? Are we aware of the consequences of these steps?
f) How will marriage look like 50 years from now?
g) Are we prepared to see our 19-year-old children proceed into civil partnership, without our knowledge, approval or blessing?
h) Finally, with one stroke of a pen, is the President going to allow a fundamental part of our society to be desecrated in this manner?
May the Lord help us!