“This is to strengthen a zero tolerance attitude towards child marriages and push for the drafting of legislation particularly on this issue,” she said.
“To raise more awareness on this menace against children, my ministry will be launching the African Union campaign on ending child marriage on July 31.”
Minister Chikwinya said child marriages and abuse had reached alarming levels and Government needed to put this to an end.
“The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2014) indicates that 32, 8 percent of women aged 20 and 49 were married before their 18th birthday.
“We expect various stakeholders, small to medium entrepreneurs, development partners and civil organisations to grace our launch as this is a national cause,” she said
She said legislation on child marriages would help deal with perpetrators according to the law.
“We acknowledge that child marriages are a form of sexual exploitation of children, laws have to be set to immediately address this problem,” she said
“My ministry will push for mandatory sentencing of rape and sexual abuse perpetrators, which will act as deterrent measure to child sexual exploitation.”
Minister Chikwinya said Government will engage all stakeholders to find ways to curb child marriages.
“We want pieces of legislations amended and we will not sit and let our girls be defiled by sexual perverts, who are taking advantage of the law,” she said.
The AU campaign against child marriages is a continent-wide campaign that has so far been launched in 10 other African countries.
The African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa encourages governments across the continent to set the minimum age of marriage at 18 years.
The Campaign also focuses on strengthening families and communities to protect their children, and ensuring they have access to key information and services of quality. Child marriage remains a brutal reality for millions of girls in Zimbabwe and most other African countries, denying them the right to live healthy, to enjoy their childhood to the fullest and fulfilling lives.
Development experts say poverty, lack of education, gender stereotyping, discrimination and negative religious practices have resulted in millions of these girls being married off before their 18th birthday.
Zimbabwe is one of the 40 countries in the world with an unacceptably high rate of child marriages, where girls enter into marriage before they turn 18. According to the 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2014), 32,8 percent of women aged between 20 and 49 reported that they were married before they were 18 while 24,5 percent of girls between 15 and 19 years are currently married.
Currently the country’s customary law and the marriage Act have not been realigned to take into consideration the legal age of majority and the age of sexual consent for girls as outlined in the Constitution. by Samantha Chigogo–source-herald