MWAPE MWENYA, Chisamba
PARENTS who have been marrying off young girls in Chief Chamuka`s area have started fleeing the chiefdom for fear of facing the law.
Chief Chamuka said some parents are opting to settle in chiefdoms where laws against early, child and forced marriages are weak.
The traditional leader, who was speaking when Ministry of Gender permanent secretary Felix Phiri paid a courtesy call on him at his palace on Sunday, warned that early, child and forced marriages will not be tolerated at the expense of education.
Chief Chamuka said incidences of teenage pregnancies have reduced from 209 in 2015 to less than 10 this year.
He said the reduction has been as a result of strict by-laws which have been formulated in his area.
The traditional leader has implored other traditional leaders to emulate his stance and ensure that girls attain equal education as boys.
“We are aware that the constitution defines a child as anyone below the age of 18, but we have said that our children can be 18 but still in school, that way we do not marry off until they are 21 years. There is no argument about that, at that age a child must have completed secondary education and may have acquired some skills,” Chief Chamuka said.
The traditional leader said the other aspect helping in the fight against child marriages is the three months’ notice to enable the authorities to ascertain a child’s age.
In the instance that a girl falls pregnant, parents are advised to ensure that she is taken back to school after delivery as opposed to being married off.
And Dr Phiri said Government recognises the key role traditional leaders play in the development of the nation.
He said Government is pleased with the good practices being implemented in Chamuka chiefdom in relation to children`s right to education.