by MARCUS MUSHONGA
HARARE, (CAJ News) – ZIMBABWE has made progress on policies to eradicate child marriages, particularly with the Constitutional Court recently endorsing the legal age of sexual consent from 16 to 18 years.
However, the country needs more than legislation and policies to eradicate the problem and other harmful practices mostly affecting girls.
This is according to the United Nations’ (UN’s) top envoy in Zimbabwe as the country marked the Day of the African Child, marked annually on June 16.
The day was marked under the theme, “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy and Practice since 2013.”
Edward Kallon, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Zimbabwe, said the recent Constitutional Court’s ruling and the High-Level Political Compact to end violence against women and girls, were examples of progress on policy and practice.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched the latter at the end of last year by under the joint UN-European Union (EU) Spotlight Initiative
“Ending child marriage in Zimbabwe and protecting girls against the negative consequences of early marriage needs more than legislation, policies, and project design,” Kallon stated.
He recommended behavioral and mindset change in the communities as well as community leaders and influential elderly men and women, boys and girls to advocate in their communities to end child marriages.
“Let us ensure zero tolerance to child marriages,” Kallon said.
In Zimbabwe, child marriages, according to the Domestic Violence bill, are considered a form of gender-based violence.
However, girls are married early.
“By age 19, when most children are expected to be starting their university or tertiary education, over half of the girls in the country are already in marriage,” Kallon stated.
On the Day of the African Child, the UN Development System in Zimbabwe pledged to double efforts in support of national and local initiatives to remove harmful practices, end child marriages and violence against women and girls.
“Leave no one behind means leave no girl and woman behind,” Kallon stated.
– CAJ News