Community, Diaspora and Immigration

Zimbabwe should end early marriages by enforcing existing laws

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"HIV and AIDS and interlinkages should foster policy discussions that seek to access legal framework in the harmonization of marriage laws in the wake of the pandemic and other challenges, the Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association {ZWLA} Emilia Muchawa has said.

In an interview with The Promota, Muchawa said: "Customary law should not encourage early marriage of girls." She further said that Zimbabwe needed to enforce the existing law prohibiting early marriage of girls – a practice still rampant in the country.

“We need to improve data on prevalence and the impact of early marriages targeting our awareness on changing attitudes and focusing on gate keepers amongst the religious and traditional leaders," Muchawa said.
She added there was a need to promote girl education and the need for their retention in school. Muchawa challenged cultural practices where religious and customary practices allowed Lobola as a legal requirement for a valid marriage.

"There is need to strengthen knowledge among our communities of the challenges likely to be faced by women and girls as a result of the commercialization of Lobola . There is therefore need for advocacy and awareness to provide information to women on the implications of the different forms of marriages which are necessary in Zimbabwe.

Gender knowledge disparity gaps continue to hamper women, economic empowerment and development initiatives."

Muchawa pins her hopes to the upcoming constitution which she believes must adhere to women's calls and demands in line with regional instruments such as the SADC protocol on Gender and international instruments such as the Convention on Elimination of Domestic Violence against Women {CEDAW} and the proposed Gender Equality Commission.

She urges Zimbabwe to ratify International conventions and domesticate these into our constitution. In addition to the above, cultural challenges such as spouse inheritance still continues to marginalize women choices.

by Grail Kupakuwana

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