Child marriages rife in Mash Central: Report

 | The Herald 

August 17, 2016

Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
Some Government officials including Members of Parliament are sexual
predators targeting minors but continue to walk scot-free, a parliamentary
committee has revealed.

The revelations are contained in a report compiled by the Parliamentary
Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development
following public hearings with various stakeholders on the prevalence of
child marriages in Mashonaland Central Province re- cently.

Presenting the first report of the findings in the National Assembly
yesterday, committee chairperson Cde Beatrice Nyamupinga said submissions
from all the districts that the committee visited in the province
confirmed a high prevalence of child mar- riages.

"In Centenary, the committee was informed that there was a high pupil
dropout rate and rampant child marriages involving girls doing Grade Six
and Seven, especially in Lower Muzarabani," said Cde Nyamupinga.

"A primary (school) teacher reported to the committee during public
hearing that on average 30 pupils are dropping out of school due to child
marriages an- nually.

"A church pastor, during a public hearing, informed the committee that a
15-year-old girl had been sexually abused and forced into marriage, had
contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that affected her health
until she became mentally disturbed. Rehabilitation of the girl was said
to be difficult since parents and close relatives were said to be

"In Dotito, it was reported to the committee that a Grade Six pupil had
been married re- cently."

Cde Nyamupinga said in Rushinga, CAMFED, a civil society organisation that
pays fees for underprivileged school-going girls, revealed that female
pupils continued to drop out of school due to early marriages.

"In Shamva, the committee was informed of an underage girl who was made
pregnant by a Government official and the perpetrator was not arrested,"
said Cde Nyamupinga.

She said some of the major factors and conditions promoting child
marriages were poverty, lack of alignment of marriage laws with the new
Constitution, lenient sentences given to cases regarding statutory rape or
consensual sex with a minor, practices of child marriages by some churches
particularly the Johanne Marange Apostolic Sect as well as low levels of
education, among others.

On its observations and findings, the committee found out that youths and
school-going children were exposed to illicit drugs among them marijuana
and cough syrup Broncleer commonly referred to as "Broncho".

"The committee also found that communities in Mashonaland Central were
concerned about incidences of sex with minors involving public officials
or figures such as police officers, Members of Parliament and or teachers.

"In most, if not all cases, child brides are disempowered, dependent on
their husbands and deprived of their fundamental rights to health,
education and safety.

"Neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers,
child mothers are at greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications
in pregnancy and child birth, becoming infected with HIV/Aids and
suffering domestic violence," said Cde Nyamupinga.

All the other legislators who debated the motion condemned child marriages
but some of them said parents, guardians and teachers were helpless as
they could not discipline errant pupils for fear of being found on the
wrong side of the law.

MDC-T MP for Binga South Mr Joel Gabbuza said 16 female pupils aged
between 14-18 years from one school in his constituency had dropped out of
school at the same time to get mar- ried.

Original: Source

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