Zimbabwe has officially outlawed child marriage following the brave forward-looking action of two Harare women, Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi who applied and approached the court through their lawyer, Tendai Biti.
They challenged the Customary Marriages Act with an argument that the said act was infringing on constitutional rights of youngsters who were being married off or are getting married at too early a stage.
The Constitutional Court proceeded to outlaw child marriage with immediate effect, striking out the statutes section 22(1) of the Marriage Act which had formerly allowed children under the age of 18 years to get into the institution of marriage. In a country where it was estimated that 31% of girls got into marriage before their 18th birthday, this is a very welcome change.
In the follow-up to this verdict after these two women filed for the Marriage Act and the Customary Marriage Act to be declared unconstitutional in January of last year, several civil society campaigns and programs were launched. Some of these programs included;
- The 18+ Campaign: This campaign on Ending Child Marriage was launched in Zimbabwe on the 13th of July 2015. It was launched by the first lady, Grace Mugabe with the theme “We are girls, not brides”.
- Give us books not husband campaign by Katswe Sistahood
- Not Ripe for Marriage campaign by Real Opportunities for Transformation Support (ROOTS)
Child marriage has so many known negative effects such as poor socio-economic development of the girls in question, increased risk during child-birth, overburdening of the young minds with added complex responsibilities, inability to have a well-rounded education and contribute positively to the society and so much more. So we therefore celebrate with the people of Zimbabwe on this positive constitutional change that will surely do them a lot of good and wish the girls the best of luck.