PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is adamant that it has accomplished a lot in stopping child marriages in Zimbabwe despite some reported rising cases of the pervasive practice.
In response to summons filed at Harare High Court on 28 September 2021, government lawyers are unwavering that President Mnangagwa’s administration had taken all the legislative and other steps required at law to stop child marriages including enforcement of the same.
The lawyers argued that a request for an order from the High Court to secure the rights of the girl children exposed to the practice of child marriages is misplaced, unnecessary and incompetent.
In March 2021, government released some shocking figures showing that 4 959 girls fell pregnant between January and February 2021 alone at a time when the scourge of child marriages increased due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and associated national lockdowns.
The response by government filed at High Court on 18 October 2021 came after Sharon Moffat, a Masvingo resident and two human rights organisations recently asked the High Court to order Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne and the Apostolic Churches Council to mount a campaign denouncing the practice of child marriages.
In the application, Moffat, Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) want Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne and the Apostolic Churches Council to be ordered to publish at every shrine or every place of worship, a message for 19 consecutive weeks, clarifying, for the benefit of their congregants and adherents, that the marrying or giving in marriage of girl children is not an aspect of their respective faiths and should not be committed in the name of their religion.
Moffat, LRF and WCoZ also want the High Court to order Health and Child Care Minister Constantino Chiwenga, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Hon. Ziyambi, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Hon. Kazembe Kazembe, Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Hon. Sithembiso
Nyoni, Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe Gender Commission and Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, to take steps to bring to an end the practice of marrying and giving in marriage of girl children in Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne and in Independent African Apostolic Churches represented by Apostolic Churches Council.
The trio want Zimbabwean authorities to conduct an identification of children married in terms of the practice, their removal, from such marriages and placement in places of safety established in terms of the Children’s Act for their rehabilitation.
They also want the activation of the criminal justice system against all men who have married or otherwise have had sexual intercourse with minor children in the name of religion post the decision of the Constitutional Court in Mudzuru and Another v Minister of Justice,
Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Others in Case No. CCZ-12-15 and the publication of a summary of the declaraturs in all national newspapers and on all national radio stations in all vernacular languages.
Moffat, LRF, which is a law based human rights organisation and WCoZ, a network of women’s organisations involved in the preservation and protection of women’s rights including the rights of children are represented by Paidamoyo Saurombe of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Advocate Thabani Mpofu, Advocate Regina Bwanali and Advocate Choice Damiso.
The matter is yet to be set down for hearing.