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    Anything for us without us is not for us - Child Marriage is a human rights violation (Part 4)

    Children early and forced marriages remain a global affront to empowerment of the girl child, gender equality and efforts to eradicate poverty. Although it affects both boys and girls, the prevalence is 5 times higher among girls.


    Early and Forced Marriages

    A significant number of children are getting pregnant before the age of majority, leading them to forced early marriage. Child marriage before the age of 18 years is a human rights, health and social concern. In most instances it’s the health aspect of giving birth at a very young age that underscores the risk of being a child bride. Child marriages are generally viewed within a contest of force and coercion involving pressure and emotional blackmail on the girl child with no capacity to give their full consent. Child marriages perpetuate inter-generational cycles of poverty and stifles development. It is also an obstacle to promoting gender equality, achieving universal primary education, promoting children’s rights and improving health.

    “Research suggests that child marriage also places young women at elevated risk for intimate partner violence (IPV), which is in turn linked to additional adverse physical and mental health outcomes. There are a number of potential reasons why child marriages may be characterized by greater violence. Moreover, adolescent girls are often married to older men, creating a power dynamic that further dis-empowers girls and exposes them to greater risks of violence, sexually transmitted diseases and a lack of agency” (Unicef:2018)

    Women who marry as children are more likely to be uneducated, live in poverty and subscribe to traditional gender norms. Child marriages are characterized by spousal age gaps, power imbalances, social isolation and lack of female autonomy. All of the above, are demonstrated risk factors for Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). They represent potential causal mechanisms (Kidman, R., 2016:2). Studies have shown that women who married as children were more likely to report IPV compared with those who married as adults. Reducing IPV will therefore most likely require addressing child marriage (Kidman et. all 2016).

    In Zimbabwe it is a crime to marry an under-age minor and the penalty is at least nine years in prison. However, the challenge is that the age of consent is 16 years and yet the Zimbabwe Constitution says anyone below the age of 18 years is a child. There is need to have the laws aligned so that the age a boy or girl can consent to sex is raised to 18 years which is the age of majority in the constitution.

    Ending child marriages is one of The Global Sustainable Development Goals’ targets. It is also a target of the AU Agenda 2063.


    Statistics and Child Marriages

    From The Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey 2010 – 2011, it is estimated that among women in the 20 – 49 years’ category, at least, one in every three (33%), first engaged in a form of marriage union before their 18th birthday. On the other hand, of boys and girls below 20 years of age, 1.7% and 24.5% respectively, are in some form of marriage union. Furthermore comparing the country’s Multiple Indicator Monitoring Survey (MIMS) 2009 data and Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2014 data, there is evidence that female teenage marriage of those between (15-19 years) is on the rise from 21% ( indicate the year) to 25% (indicate the year). It is estimated that child marriages are more prevalent in rural communities. In the Urban areas, the practice is most rampant in the high density areas, in particular informal settlements.


    Summary

    Child Marriages are a human rights violation hence the legal frameworks at international, regional and national level with a component of ending child marriages. It is a Sustainable Development Goal target to end child marriages by 2030 and the AU Agenda target to end child marriages by 2063. Child Marriage is a form of Sexual Gender Based Violence and it is the State’s obligation to ensure that all children’s rights are not violated. Government is aligning all laws to ensure that they are all aligned to our Constitution. The legal age of majority in our constitution is 18 years. The age of consent should therefore, also be, 18 years for both girls and boys.


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Africa Women Filmmakers Trust works to advance gender equality and justice through the use of information and communication technologies by facilitating
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