Whinsley Masara, Chronicle Reporter
THE DEPUTY Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Cde Thokozile Mathuthu says the country needs to redress some cultural norms that promote child marriages.
Cde Mathuthu, who is also Zanu-PF Politburo secretary for gender and culture, said this during the belated International day of the Girl Child commemorations in Matabeleland North province at Phunyuka Primary School in Lupane on Monday.
She said statistics show that about one in nine or 23 million girls entered into marriage or union before they reached the age 15.
The largest numbers of child brides, said Cde Mathuthu, emanate from Africa, specifically Southern Africa.
The deputy minister said Zimbabwe is among the 19 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriages in Africa.
She said: “The country should do away with some cultural practices like pledging of girls in marriage as they are a violation of the country’s constitution. Violation of rights and dignity of the girl, the boy, the men or the women is actually an impediment to development.
“In recognition to this, our government adopted the constitution which makes issues of gender constitutional matters. Gender equality is therefore no longer about what you think or feel, but an obligation to fulfill.”
Cde Mathuthu said in recognition of the importance of investing and empowering girls and protecting them from various forms of violence, Zimbabwe, like the rest of the world, commemorated the International day of the Girl Child under the theme “Unlocking the power of girls.”
“This theme resonates well with all the campaigns government and partners are doing in trying to end child marriages, thus giving back power to the adolescent girl.
“I acknowledge and thank all partners who are working flat- out on programmes to end child marriages and empowerment of the girl child. The 2015 national theme is in line with all this,” she said.
She said on such a day the world reflects on challenges being faced by children especially gender based violence, discrimination, abuse and child marriages.
“In Zimbabwe, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in its state of the world’s report 2015, Mashonaland Central leads in child marriages with 50 percent,” said Cde Mathuthu.
She said Mashonaland West is second with 42 percent, Masvingo 39 percent, Mashonaland East 36 percent, Midlands 31 percent, Manicaland 30 percent, Matabeleland North with 27 percent, Harare 19 percent and Matabeleland South 18 percent.
“Bulawayo has the least prevalence with about 10 percent,” said Cde Mathuthu.
She said it was appalling that a majority of child marriages are initiated by family members and influential leaders in communities.
“Child marriages are a form of gender based violence and this form of abuse can have serious short and long term physical, psychological and social consequences, not only for girls but also for their families and communities,” she said.
Cde Mathuthu said children forced into marriage face increased risk of HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases, greater risks of miscarriages and other complications during pregnancy including death, school dropouts and perpetual poverty.
Ends Ckd TD