Youth organisations have hailed the newly drafted marriage bill saying it will help reduce child marriages in the country.
The parliament of Zimbabwe is set to adopt a new law that will outlaw the legal marriage of underage girls while it will be a criminal offence to marry off girls below 18 years.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi recently said the bill has been completed and awaits cabinet approval.
Minister Ziyambi said the bill would back up the January 2016 constitutional court landmark judgment, which declared 18 years as the legal age of consent.
“The Bill will deal with the court judgment which ruled that one cannot marry before the age of 18 and that has to be put in the law,” said Minister Ziyambi.
“The other issue is that the Bill deals with is section 26 of the constitution, which speaks about consent and we need to give effect to it because it will provide the minimum age of consent”.
Ziyambi added that the Bill would allow the alignment of gender equality issues with section 3 of the constitution.
“The rights of women in marriages will be recognized. Equality of rights and obligations of spouses in marriage and at its dissolution and when dissolution occurs will be observed”.
“The Bill will also recognize cultural groups and promote the preservation of cultural values and practices that enhance dignity”.
According to Girls Not Brides, an organisation that advocates for the protection of child rights, 32% of girls in Zimbabwe are married before the age of 18 and 4% are married before their 15th birthday.
In Zimbabwe, approximately one in three girls are married before the age of 18 years.
Youths Today and Tomorrow Media and Communications officer Prudence Ntabeni said that her organisation welcomes the Bill, which comes as a milestone to end marriages and the protection of the rights of children.
“I am pleased with the drafting of the new bill by the government which outlaws child marriages. An 18 year is considered to be an adult globally but I still feel they are developing teenagers who still need to be protected by the law,” said Ntabeni.
“The fact that the law will now provide the minimum age of consent is plausible because it now stops the parents or guardians from marrying off a child without her consent”.
However, she said that there should be to provide protection of the girl child from abuse by older people.
“It would be wise for the government to give harsh sentences to people who are found guilty of marrying underage girls.