BUHERA – Plan International Zimbabwe, an NGO that deals with child rights has called on Government to move with speed and introduce law reforms that will see stiff penalties against sex offenders who abuse the girl child.
Such laws, including the Marriages Bill must be aligned with the new constitution of Zimbabwe.
Plan International Communications Specialist Sibusisiwe Ndlovu who spoke to Chipinge Times in the wake of the story of 14-year-old Anna Machaya, a member of an Apostolic sect who died while giving birth at a shrine in Marange in Manicaland said Government was taking too long to reform the laws.
She added that such law reforms must empower the girl child to make informed choices. Plan International has been operating in the country since 1986.
Ndlovu argued that the current laws gave little deterrence to would-be offenders and therefore stalled the empowerment of the girl child. She said child marriages and teenage pregnancies were retrogressive, unacceptable as they stop the girl child from realising her dreams.
“Plan International’s community-driven work is to support vulnerable children especially girls. The main thrust is to empower them and protect their rights. As an organisation we also seek to influence policy making at national, regional and international levels,” said Ndlovu.
Ndlovu said that the Marriage Bill clearly outlaws the marrying, pledging or betrothal of girls by any person and criminalises the role of parents and guardians in the commission of the offence.
“As proven by Anna Machaya case and many others, the absence of specific legislation on child marriage, disharmony and poor implementation of policies combined with negative social norms in communities creates fertile ground for child abuse” she said.
Buhera Gender activist Primrose Masarara said child marriages were rampant and needed attention from Government and all the stakeholders, including the media.
“Pressure must mount on responsible authorities. Everyone matters in the fight against this vice. Alignment of all laws that protect children rights must be quick as this has taken a long time” said Masarara.
She called on MPs from all political parties to stop bickering in Parliament and prioritise the law reforms which she described as a crucial national issue.
Recently the Minister of Women’s Affairs Sithembiso Nyoni told Parliament that 5 000 girls below the ages of 16 got pregnant in a period of three months.