Zimbabwe Constitutional Court has outlawed child marriage, ruling that marriage for boys and girls under the age of 18 is unconstitutional, in a landmark decision which has been hailed by many rights groups and citizens.
The ruling read: “No person, male or female, in Zimbabwe may enter into any marriage, including an unregistered customary law union or any other union, including one arising out of religion or a religious rite, before attaining the age of eighteen (18),” according to Veritas.
In a case was brought to the court by applicants, Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, who were child brides, the Constitutional Court struck off the statutes section 22(1) of the Marriage Act, which permitted children under the age of 18 years to get into marriage.
The court ruled that: “Section 22(1) of the Marriage Act [Chapter 5:11] is unconstitutional”. The case was argued by lawyer Tendai Biti and supported by non-profit organisation, Veritas.
The ruling has been welcomed and lauded by various rights groups, as the step in the right direction to protect the rights of children, particularly young girls.
Critics have observed that while the ruling does not address the root causes of child marriage, it offers strong protection to the vulnerable and the government will need invest in education and advocacy programmes to change the mindsets of people.
Child marriage is global problem, which is also prevalent in many parts of Africa.
According to girls not brides, about 15 million girls are married before the age of 18 every year across the world.
Girls not brides says, “Child brides are often 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 brides are at greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth”.