from WALTER MAFIKENG in Chiredzi
CHILONGA, (CAJ News) –IMAGES depicting old men in an intimate positions with underage girls, some in their first year as teenagers, have brought to the fore the issue of child marriages in this part of the country.
The trend has triggered action by stakeholders eager to combat the scourge, with the unanimous message among stakeholders that only children above the age of 18 should take part in VaTsonga adulthood initiation ceremonies.
This has been the consensus at a recent dialogue organised by Gaza Trust at Waseta Primary in Chilonga communal lands, Chiredzi district, Zimbabwe.
First was a picture of a grey-haired man posting on social media images of him hugging a minor, who it has emerged is his wife.
Also in the Loweveld, it emerged a VaTsonga man got married to a 13-year-old after paying a paltry 80 Bond (R80) her family received as lobola.
July Guvele, who is Chief Chilonga, welcomed the dialogue arranged by the Gaza Trust, saying it empowered locals to fight child marriages as well as to strengthen girl child rights.
“This is a good programme as it engaged both parents and school children, educating them on how can we best protect girl child rights and fight child marriages in our society,” Chief Chilonga said.
A prevailing argument was that circumcision was to blame for the prevalence of child marriages.
Hardlife Tiisa, the local councilor, disputed this.
“I beg to differ as our culture only allows children with 18 years to participate in this traditional ceremony,” the lawmaker said.
“As per our culture we do not support underage children being called (for traditional initiation). We even urge parents to send children who have the right age which is 18,” Tiisa insisted.
Chief Chilonga urged those in charge of the ‘Tikhomba initiation’ process to ensure that only girls aged with 18 years take part in the process.
“As much as there is blame against the Shangaan khomba cultural process being pivotal in causing child marriages, I think the elders responsible for the process should enforce that no girl under the age of 18 should take part in the process as this is in line with government’s law,” the traditional leader added.
Recently the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared 18 years as the minimum age of marriage.
– CAJ News