The chairperson of the Parliamentary portfolio committee on health Dr. Ruth Labode has stated with great concern that teenage pregnancies and child marriages have become an epidemic in the country pointing that there is a need for strategies in addressing this epidemic.
For the past 4 weeks, the child marriages scourge has not given the nation rest, the death of Anna Machaya at a shrine in Bocha while giving birth has opened a public outcry, with the whole nation seeking justice for the girl child whose rights are violated and are made to suffer in silence.
Speaking to SAYWHAT`s flagship television program `The Pill`, this Wednesday, Dr. Ruth Labode said, “The coming of the new Marriages Bill was inspired by issues around marriages, un-registered marriages, civil associations and child marriages in particular. A law was needed to be put, with specific focus on outlawing child marriages.”
A year has passed and conversations on the new marriages bill are still taking place, a major delay in the implementation of the bill.
“There are two challenges that have contributed to the delay of the new marriages bill. The senate had to send the bill back to the chiefs who felt that lobola should not be abolished. The lockdown also played a huge part as the parliament was closed,” Dr Ruth Labode said.
The new marriages bill brings a lot of hope in addressing child marriages.
“Clause 3 of the bill states that, age of marriage is 18 and it outlaws child marriages even in the traditional set up and it punishes the parents if they consented on behalf of the child.” Dr Ruth Labode went further to point that, poverty and religion have been a push factor for child marriages.
There is need to have a national dialogue that goes beyond the marriages bill. Commitments from churches, politicians, and communities are vital in the child marriages dialogue pointed out Dr Ruth Labode and indicated that politicians who turn a blind eye in such pertinent issues are doing an injustice to the communities and are wrong.
The case of Anna Machaya was an eye opener on what is happening within the country.
Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises in February reported that 5000 girls in primary schools are reported pregnant, the same age as Anna Machaya. Child marriages are all over Zimbabwe and they should be addressed alluded Hon Labode.
“Adolescents are sexually active, in cases where they need contraceptives, they should be provided with such a service so that they guard their health responsibly, Dr Ruth Labode said. She added, “There should be access to sexual reproductive health services to young people and monitoring of these services should also be strengthened in the coming marriages bill. “
It is declared that section 78 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe that no person male, or female, may enter into any marriage, including an unregistered customary law union or any other union including one arising out of religion or religious rite, before attaining the age of eighteen (18) years.
Child protection is a community initiative, play your part.