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Chiefs fully behind Marriages Act

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Chiefs fully behind Marriages Act


Traditional leaders are fully behind the Marriages Act and are stepping up the pressure against child marriages by adding stiffer customary civil penalties against offenders, who still face criminal charges and potential jail sentences, Chiefs Council president Chief Fortune Charumbira has said.

The Marriages Act last month became law, a piece of legislation that brings all marriage laws together, making all marriages equal and finally providing a way to transform a registered customary union into a civil marriage, while making it clear that child marriages are totally banned with those arranging or solemnising such marriages facing five years in jail.

Speaking during a workshop on unpacking the Marriages Act organised by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development yesterday, Chief Charumbira said traditional leaders as custodians of societal norms and values saw child marriages as not only unlawful but opposed to the traditional values they are sworn to uphold.

“As traditional leaders we condemn in the strongest terms any child marriage” he said.

“The practice is not just unlawful in terms of the laws of the country but is not consistent with our traditional norms and values which we superintend.

“There is no community or society in this country that you will see traditional leaders supporting children going into marriages. That is taboo to our ways of living,” he said.

“As custodians of traditional values, we have to stamp our authority by imposing heavy fines to show how society frowns at the practice. As traditional leaders we will use influence in the quest to end child marriages.”

He said, chiefs had played a crucial role in the enactment of the law as a way of ensuring that society is kept with good values and norms.

Chief Charumbira said the Act had a rough passage through Parliament over the issue of lobola, which will now for practical purposes need to be paid in solemnised customary unions where the district custom has this, but possibly not in unregistered customary unions that are later registered without solemnisation.

All marriages in Zimbabwe were now equal, with a single register of marriages maintained by a single Registrar of Marriages. But there are distinct differences between civil marriages and customary marriages, the main one being that a customary marriage is potentially polygamous with different ways of solemnising these marriages

Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, minister, Dr Sithembiso Nyoni said the law was a shot in the arm towards women and girl child empowerment.

“The law has come at the right time when the girl child in society is under attack from underage marriages.

“I call upon all stakeholders to be part of the effort to improve the lives of women, knowing that empowering a woman means empowering a village, empowering a village means empowering communities and therefore empowering the nation,” she said.

Babra Vengedza representing Ruvheneko Rwenyenyedzi Trust, an organisation working with apostolic churches in addressing child marriage issues, said there was growing demand for relevant authorities to take action against the vice.

“The issue of child marriages has come under the spotlight following the death of 14- year-old Anna Machaya at a Johanne Marange Apostolic Sect shrine in Marange last year.

“As an entity working with white garment churches who have been said to the leading perpetrator of this crime, we fully behind stiffer sentences,” she said.

Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association underscored the need for the harmonisation of children rights laws, including the legal age of marriage and that of sexual consent.

The Constitutional Court recently said the age of consent was the same as the age of marriage, 18, but the actual criminal legislation has not been amended.

Zimbabwe Gender Commission said enactment of the law provides a new dawn for women and girls from sexual violence.

Msasa Project said it was a step in the right direction towards elimination of violence against women and girls in communities. Herald

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