Plan International urges concerted fight against child marriage

By Nkosana Dlamini

Plan International has called for a multi-stakeholder push for an end to rampant child marriages in Zimbabwe while also urging the operationalisation of statutes outlawing the practice.

In a statement Friday, Plan International also commended police for finally carrying out their mandate through arresting 26-year-old Hatirarami Momberume.

Momberume is the man who married and impregnated 15-year-old Annah Machaya who later died while giving birth last month at an apostolic church shrine in Manicaland.

For failing to take the minor to a conventional hospital facility where she could receive proper health care, he has since been charged with murder and for sex with a young person.

“Plan International reiterates the need to move with speed on the alignment of laws to the constitution and the expediting of progressive laws such as the Marriages Bill in the protection of girls,” said the humanitarian organisation.

“The Marriages Bill clearly outlaws the marrying, pledging or betrothal of children by any person and further criminalises the role of parents and/or guardians in the commission of the offence.

“As proven by the Anna Machaya case, the absence of specific legislation on child marriage, disharmony and poor implementation of policies combined with negative social norms in communities creates fertile ground for continuation of this practice in the country.

“’Child Marriage’ and Teenage Pregnancy are retrogressive and unacceptable.

“Anna Machaya was in school aiming to achieve her hopes and dreams before these were dashed.

“She deserved better. We ask that all stakeholders including law makers, traditional, religious and community leaders and the media act now to protect girls by influencing and advocating for the enactment of laws that protect them.

“Our progressive Constitution has laid a solid foundation for the upholding of human rights for all in Zimbabwe.”

Plan International said the arrest on Momberume and parents of the minor “will not deter our cause for legal reforms to protect girls from falling victim to the practice of child early and forced marriage”.

“It is our firm belief that this case is a rallying point for all stakeholders who are invested in ensuring that the practice of child marriage becomes a thing of the past in Zimbabwe,” said the organisation.