VICE President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday received a copy of the draft amendments on child marriages laws from women organisation representatives and experts on child rights at his New Government Complex Offices in Harare.
Speaking after receiving the draft copy from the head of delegation, MP for Harare West Ms Jessie Majome, Cde Mnangagwa lauded the initiative, saying the Government would take on board progressive sections in the draft and include them in the Marriages Bill to ensure that the problem of child marriages is addressed.
“We are making concerted effort to ensure that child marriages are banned. Our girls should marry when they attain the ages of 18. That would be supported by laws that we are currently working on and the process is ongoing,” he said.
The consortium of experts made draft amendments to some sections of five laws namely the Birth and Deaths Registration Act, Children’s Act, Customary Marriages Act, Marriage Act and the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act.
On the Birth and Deaths Registration Act, the experts propose to reduce the time of notification from 36 hours to 24 hours, while on the Marriages Act; they want all existing state structures from the magistrates’ courts right up to the village head to be allowed to register marriages.
On the amendments to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, they are proposing the age of consent to be 18 years since sexual relations are usually a precursor to marriages.
“The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23 is amended in section 70 by the deletion in subsection (3) of “sixteen years” and the substitution of “eighteen years’’.
Other amendments include the notification of the rural heads in rural areas or magistrates in urban areas of the parties that want to wed so that they can scrutinise their personal details before the marriages have been solemnised.
Proof of age of the party concerned should be made available before a marriage is solemnised. This will ensure that marriage officers will not solemnise marriages for girls who are below 18 years.
Presenting the draft, Ms Majome said the decision to draft the amendments was born out of the need to ensure inclusivity from all stakeholders advocating an end to child marriages.
“We are deeply concerned that the practices of child, early and forced marriages are widespread and constitute violations of human rights, prevent individuals from living their lives from all forms of violence that have adverse consequences on the enjoyment of human rights.
“By embarking on this exercise, we want to ensure that the problem of child marriages is eradicated. Saving our girls from child marriages will set women on the path of development, she said. herald