Gender Gender Kid's Corner

Criminalise child marriages – ZLDC

Early marriage child mother.

IN SPITE of interventions by various stakeholders to end child marriages, the message seems to be falling on deaf ears as underage girls are still entering this very important institution. It is not strange to see young girls, some of them with babies strapped on their backs, taking care of a home instead of enjoying their childhood. While some girls get into marriage with the assumption that every day will be fun-filled, not knowing the heavy responsibilities they are likely to assume, others go into marriage unwillingly. Whatever the circumstances, girls should be girls and they should be allowed to enjoy their childhood like some of us did.
As a result, many young girls’ lives have been messed up while perpetrators have gone scot-free because there are no laws that criminalise the act.
It is because of the concern for young girls that the Zambia Law Development Commission (ZLDC) recently called on Government to enact a law that will criminalise child marriages.
ZLDC assistant research officer Mercy Lupupa explained that because Zambia has a dual legal system comprising statute law and customary law, the two run concurrently.
“Whereas marriages contracted under statute law can regulate marriages through the Marriage Act by stipulating the age at which a child can get married, marriages under customary law have no age specification, which disadvantages the young victims,” Ms Lupupa said.
She said it was disheartening to see girls as young as 10 forced into marriages, especially in rural areas. According to research, although boys also fall prey to the scourge, it is girls who are most vulnerable.
ZLDC is not the first organisation to call for criminalisation of child marriage.
About three years ago, when Government hosted a symposium on ending child marriage under the theme ‘Let girls be girls not brides: Zero tolerance to child marriage’,  former First Lady Christine Kaseba also called for the criminalisation of child marriages in order to protect the victims.
Officially opening the three-day national symposium, Dr Kaseba said: “Much as we want to prevent this practice, we have to consider the plight of our children that are already victims of the exploitative and abusive practice of child marriage. Perpetration of abuse of children should strongly be shamed through criminalising such acts.”
She stressed that perpetrators should face the law as a way of increasing the protection boundaries for children.
“The safety of children being removed from marriages needs to be given priority if the task of curbing child marriage is to be successful. We need to provide safe houses and girls should be aware of the existence of such facilities in order to provide a safe haven for those who might not have a place to go,” she said.
It is crucial to encourage girls to stay in school for as long as possible, especially if they are to have a better standard of life. Research has shown that when girls stay in school until they are much older, they are not likely to be pressured or influenced to get married or get pregnant until they are ready. Such girls have a better understanding about the importance of being educated not only for their families and their communities but for the country as well. And, of course, not forgetting the independence attached with being educated without always having to depend on the men in their lives.
Remember, children are our future, until next week, take care.
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