Statistics from the United Nations show that 34% of girls in Zimbabwe are married before the age of 18 and 5% are married before their 15th birthday. Child marriage is more common in rural communities. 2014 statistics showed that 40% of women aged 20-24 living in rural areas, compared to 19% in urban areas, were married or in a union before the age of 18. The Covid-19 induced lockdown has seen a marked increase in Child marriage cases are also with perpetrators taking advantage of the resulting hardships either to collect goods and money as partial lobola or to get child wives on the cheap.
Parents and Guardians that spoke to Amakhosikazi Media said the heinous crime is highly prevalent in mining communities where unruly elements are also engaging in sexual activities with underage girls.
“Illegal miners just come into our community to pan for gold and when they make money they target young girls who can be easily manipulated where money is involved.” said a concerned mother.
She also said “these children get pregnant and become wives as parents take the money and keep quiet”
She indicated that “some of the men disappear, never to be seen again when the girls get pregnant”
A traditional leader from Midlands Province says he has resorted to banishing perpetrators of heinous child marriage offences, as a measure to end the irrational system.
Chief Gwesela of Zhombe said the gold panning activities in the area have seen child marriage cases spike.
“In my area, once you marry an underage girl, the one that marries and the one that allows the underage girl to get married will both be banished from the area.” Said Chief Gwesela
He added that the community “wants young girls to grow and reach their full potential in life and be mothers and wives when the time is right”
He indicated that he and other traditional leaders have “partnered with various organizations to educate villagers on the dangers of child marriages.”
The Issue of child marriages has been brought to the fore again in recent weeks by the passing on of 14-year-old Anna Makore, who reportedly died while giving birth at a shrine in Marange.
Police have since arrested the parents of the girl, they face charges of illegal marriage and defeating the ends of justice and they tried to protect the man that illegally married and raped their daughter.
Zimbabwe has committed to eliminating child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Constitutional Court outlawed the marriage of people under 18 in 2016.