By Daniel Chigundu
Coalition of Democrats (CODE) Presidential candidate Elton Mangoma says if elected into government his party will seek to end rampant cases of child marriages and ensure that girls have access to schools.
According to statistics, it is estimated that about 31 percent of girls in Zimbabwe are getting married before their 18th birthday.
Early marriages not only deprive girls of education and opportunities but also increase the risk of death or serious childbirth injuries if they have babies before their bodies are ready.
Addressing supporters at his party’s campaign launch at Freedom Square, Mangoma said his government will make it a priority to ensure girls reach Ordinary Level before they can decide to marry.
“We want all girls to go to school so that we prevent early child marriages, where young girls are being given to marriages so that every girl-child reaches at least Ordinary Level.
“Whether one will pass or fail it’s something else at least they must reach that level and if they decide to marry after Ordinary Level at least they would also have grown up.
“We will be doing this in trying to fight cases of early motherhood where kids will be having their own kids, so they can have a better future,” he said.
Zimbabwe currently has some laws that are in direct conflict with the new constitution (amendment no 20/2013) especially Sections 26 and 78 which deal with the legal age majority and the issues of consent to marriages.
Laws such as the Marriages Act, Customary Marriages Act [Chapter 5:07], Children’s Act [Chapter 5:06], Maintenance Act [Chapter 5:09] and the Citizenship Act [Chapter 4:01] all have sections that directly or indirectly allow child marriage.
Alarmed by the loopholes in the country’s statutes, child marriage victims Ruvimbo Tsopodzi and Loveness Mudzuru in 2016 sought the help of the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) to ban child marriages and ultimately set 18 as the legal age of consent in line with the constitution.
Child marriages have been attributed to hunger, poverty, cultural and religious practices among many other reasons.
However, outspoken women rights activist and legislator dismissed the hunger and poverty claim arguing that if people are that hungry why are they not stealing stray livestock instead.
While child marriages are still rampant on the African continent, there are countries that have been taking a stand against the practice by putting in place laws and stringent penalties for perpetrators.
Meanwhile, Mangoma has also promised to empower women and youths through creating jobs and availing funds for entrepreneurs.
Mangoma said his success at the Ministry of Energy and Power Development during the inclusive government speaks volumes about the type of success he can bring to the country should he be voted to power in the impending 2018 general elections to held between 21 July and 21 August.