By Mark Mhukayesango
GWERU, October 21, 2015-A survey done by Plan Zimbabwe International has revealed that
Midlands is a child marriage hot spot in Zimbabwe with the highest
recorded cases of minors given into marriage in 2014 ,with Gokwe,
Kwekwe and Lower Gweru with the most incidents, Radio VOP has learnt.
In Gokwe South alone 38 cases have been reported to date since
January, with child rights groups saying that the figures have been
understated as some cases go unreported.
In resettlement areas like Gokwe South child marriages are rife as
families give away their children in marriage due to poverty.
Girls as young as 12 are married to older men as families seek to
cushion themselves from poverty by arranging wealthy suitors for their
In lower Gweru were there are apostolic sects , 29 cases have been
reported to date as young girls continue to be violated through child
marriages which have condemned by various sections of the society.
Church doctrine in these apostolic sects does not discourage polygamy
and child marriage , whilst it is common for men to claim child
brides , with statistics showing that 21 percent of married women in
apostolic sects are below the age of 18.
Child protection is said to be very poor in these areas, according to
the Department of Social welfare with 2014 statistics showing that
most poor families in the rural areas who fail to take their children
to school often marry them off at a young age.
“We have started a hot spot analysis i these areas where child
marriages are rife. The figures do not represent the reality on the
ground because there are some which go unreported,” a Department
Social Welfare Midlands representative ,Mary Mukandatsine told chiefs
at a workshop in Gweru on Tuesday.
Mukandatsine urged traditional chiefs to protect their subjects from
child marriages through imposing hefty penalties for perpetrators.
“As we are going back to our communities let us know that these cases
are rampant,” she said.
Poverty stricken families have been accused of protecting perpetrators
of child marriages since they benefit financially from the families.
but the department of social welfare has urged families to respect
children’s rights according international human rights accords that
Zimbabwe has acceded to.
Traditional chiefs who spoke to Radio VOP , said poor families are
left with no choice but to give their minor children into marriage.
“Poverty is causing child marriages, families are in deep lack so what
do you expect them to do. They marry their daughters to older rich men
,” Chief Mapanzure said adding that government should help families
with basic commodities in order to desist from such behaviour.
According to data presented by Plan Zimbabwe International , 39
percent of women in rural areas aged 20-49 years currently in marriage
were married before age 18 , compared to 21 percent in urban areas.
Chiefs argue that there is a challenge with the enforcement of
legislation that prohibits child marriage in Zimbabwe in that
customary law does not set a minimum age of marriage and allows
marriage to minors albeit with parental consent.
Hence parents consenting to marrying off their minor children are
cannot be prosecuted under the Customary Laws, thus the growth in
cases related to child marriages.
Zama Nthua Mkwananzi, Chief Ngungumbane of Mberengwa East said there
was need to harmonise laws with the New Constitution in order to give
chiefs the power to prosecute offenders as the practice is worsening
“There is lack of harmonisation of the constitution and the laws
already in existence. Our law does not empower us to prosecute
offenders, so we are left clueless,” said Chief Ngungumbane.
He said the chiefs’ rulings should be upheld in order to reduce child
As a result of traditional justice systems sanction this practice
while statutory law prohibits it, making it possible for girls as
young as 12 to enter into marriage.
Kwekwe alongside Gokwe and Lower Gweru is also a child marriage hot
spot , with 98 percent of the cases attributed to gold mining
activities in which a large population of men and boys drop out of
school to mine gold which gives them prestige.
Young girls are said to be lured by the prestige of money into early
marriages and at times early pregnancies.
To curb child marriages , the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare has
set up child protection centres, whilst traditional leaders are said
to be on the forefront in discouraging the practice.
“Many traditional leaders have tried child marriage cases ,but their
judgements do not carry legal power and perpetrators can easily escape
the given sentences.” said Plan International Zimbabwe.
Globally 140 million girls become child brides annually which
translates to 39000 per day, whilst 16 million adolescent girls give
birth annually and 90% are already married according to the World
Health Organisation WHO.
According to WHO 50 percent of pregnant girls under the age of 18
undergo still birth, whilst the number of matronal deaths continue to
soar year after year.
Speaking to Radio VOP, Dot Youth, projects coordinator, Sibusiso
Bhebhe said the youth organisation is advocating for the
criminalisation of child marriages and the the amendment of the
Marriage Act which allows girls under 16 to get enter into a marriage.
“We should criminalise child marriages and we are currently lobbying
for the arrest of men who marry minors because they are trampling on
their rights,” he Bhebhe said.
Zimbabwe has a dual legal system that allows for child marriages in
customary law and yet speaks against it in statutory law.
Mercy Musekiwa, a mother condemned child marriages said “Child
marriages is evil because it tramples on the rights of children who
have the right to realise their own goals. Perpetrators should be
brought to book because they are killing their future.”