ARTHUR MWANSA, Lusaka
THE Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) says child marriage is a devastating phenomenon that robs girls of their childhood.
SADC-PF secretary-general Esau Chiviya said this in Lusaka on Wednesday during the official opening of a national follow-up workshop on child marriage laws.
â€œChild marriage denies girl children the opportunity to benefit meaningfully from formal education thereby condemning them to perpetual poverty. It exposes affected children to gender- based violence, HIV and AIDS, fistula and pregnant related complication, including death while giving birth,â€ Dr Chiviya said.
He also said child marriage can compromise social economic development of countries in that some of the affected children rarely grow into educated and skilled human resources. â€œChild marriage bleeds a generation of poorly socialised children in that the child mothers that come out of child marriages are often incapable of socialising their own childrenâ€.
Dr Chiviya also said despite some initiatives by some SADC countries to end child marriages, the majority of them are far from effectively and boldly dealing with the vice, which continues unabated at a large scale.
He is, however, pleased that the Zambian government has launched a multi-sectoral approach to address the problem of child marriage and teenage pregnancy.
Dr Chiviya is also thrilled that the African Union (AU) adopted a common position on ending child marriages, which signals the continental bodyâ€™s commitment to empowering women and girls and protect their human rights.
And Minister of Gender and Child Development Nkandu Luo said it is sad that child marriage has health implications such as vaginal fistula, an abnormal opening that connects vagina to another organ, such as the bladder, colon or rectum.
Vaginal fistulas can develop as a result of an injury, a surgery, an infection or radiation treatment.
Prof Luo proposed that children should be allowed to get married at the age of 21 instead of 18 and below.
And Plan International Zambia (PIZ) country director Samuel Musyoki said he is happy that Government has taken the issue of child marriage seriously and has been leading the way in Africa.
The one-day workshop was organised by PIZ in collaboration with SADC-PF and the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEP).
ARTHUR MWANSA, Lusaka