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Child Marriages – A Scourge Not Abating

By Maxwell Chonzi and Branton Matondo

Marriage is a matrimonial union between two consenting adults – a male and a female. ln some instances more in polygamous arrangements. lt is not for everybody.

It is for mature adults who have made a lifelong commitment to live as husband and wife or wives. Marriage binds people in a sacred family institution in which both or all parties are obligated to love, protect and provide for each other and the offspring(s) that are born in this wedlock.

These are mammoth responsibilities. It is heart-wrenching that children particularly teenagers and in some unfortunate circumstances as young as ten are plunged into such taxing unions heedless of the consequences.

The tragic case of Anna Machaya ,a fourteen year old juvenile who died in spine- chilling circumstances due to labour related complications at a Johane Marange apostolic Sect shrine opened a pandora’s box and ignited a raging debate that raised serious questions on our conscience as a nation.

Notwithstanding the sound and fury that obtained in the aftermath nothing of substance seem to be coming in the way of taming the ravaging monster called child marriage that has taken root in our midst.

In interviews this reporter has held with various people the key drivers of this scourge that were identified include grinding poverty, archaic religious and cultural practices and bad peer influence.

If our people are aware of the root cause of this social ill, why is it proving to be particularly difficult to tame this rogue? What is particularly disturbing is that the church and the home are supposed to be sacred sanctuaries of the children especially the girl child have become dungeons and hubs at the forefront of fermenting this social ill that is gnawing persistently at our social fabric.

Mr Ndlalifa Ndebele, a local Headman in Silobela, who is also a church elder and a Head of Sibangani Secondary acknowledges that cases of child marriages do exist even in his area of jurisdiction but sometimes they are two powerless to deal with them owing to absence of complainants and lack of cooperation from the supposed aggrieved parties.

‘Child marriages are common but it is difficult to deal with because some people are not forthcoming as regards settling these in ways that are legally permissible’ Ndebele said.

Although it is quite apparent that children’s rights to protection as enshrined in the constitution are being infringed upon something very pertinent is lacking in stemming out this bane that has reached pandemic levels.

It is now an intrinsic part of our society. Isn’t it tragically funny that there are a plethora of organisations whose mandate is decidedly poised to protect children like Childline, Angel Of Hope foundation, Plan, Camfed among a host of others yet this scourge yet to glimpse defeat.

An long as the nation is bereft of a robust legal framework, institutions and processes bent on punishing the perpetrators with deterrent measures and custodial sentences, this despicable social ill is not abating anytime soon.
The state should invest massively in these, Education and Awareness campaigns that offer practical remedies to this cancer. There are boundless opportunities that come with empowerment of children, retrogressive societies and so called churches that have diabolic inclinations in which child marriages are rampant.

The first step is to lobby for legislation that criminalises teen pregnancies’ and marriages. Should these falter or fail like what is seemingly obtaining, isn’t it logical that the military should step in like they did in 2017 and restore the ‘legacy ‘this time of the family institution in which children grow to be loved, protected and kept in school to turn the tide of poverty.

They are the future!