Editor's Comment

Nip early marriages in the bud

IT IS heart-warming to learn that task forces on early marriages are still doing their work in rural areas where they have been withdrawing girls from marriages.
The fight against early marriages needs concerted effort as this practice remains widespread in most parts of the country.
News coming from Kaoma in Western Province indicates that six girls aged between 12 and 18 have been withdrawn from marriages from January to date.
At the centre of the campaign is Chief Mwene Mutondo, who says cases of early marriage are still high in rural parts of the district.
In 2018, the district, in collaboration with Japanese Tobacco International (JTI) Zambia, withdrew over 500 girls from early marriages and child labour. The children were taken back to school.
The issue of early marriages touches many people who are concerned about the future of the girl-child.
Parents should take cognisance of the fact that the catchphrase “youths are future leaders” does not exclude the girl-child.
Girls are very much part of the development agenda of the country and parents should not curtail the potential that lies in the children by denying them an education.
Marrying off a girl at an early age is no different from selling a human being as a slave to another person.
A case in point is where girls are exchanged with livestock, which is considered as wealth in rural areas.
In other words, a girl is used as a bargaining chip through an arranged marriage to acquire some animals in the household.
Parents should not take advantage of the fact that children are dependent on them for any decision before their minds mature to know what is good for them and what is not.
Poverty should not be an excuse to sell girl-children to the highest bidder. If anything, many girls who are married off early end up being physically abused by their husbands.
This is common in areas where illiteracy levels are high and people do not care about the right of the girl-child.
In some instances, the girls are married off to fellow young people who do not have full understanding of marriage and capacity to take care of their young wives.
It is an open secret that most cases are not reported, especially in rural areas where traditional norms hold sway over marriage issues.
But we must commend traditional leaders like Chief Mwene Mutondo who are still fighting against early marriages.
Government alone cannot win the fight against early marriages if traditional leaders stay aloof by allowing traditional beliefs to rob girls of their right to education.
We urge church leaders and school teachers in rural areas to join forces with chiefs and headmen to sensitise people about the dangers of early marriage.
Traditional leaders should also protect teachers from witchcraft threats.
A number of teachers who have been instrumental in the withdrawal of girls from marriages in some rural areas have left because of death threats by some parents.
We, therefore, commend Chief Mwene Mutondo for punishing parents who marry off their children at a young age.
Men who marry girls of school-going age should also own up and realise that it is wrong to marry a girl against her will.
Those who want to marry in rural areas should be patient enough and let girls complete school or mature into adulthood when they can make their own decisions.
Law enforcement agencies should also be on the lookout for such crimes. Some of these crimes are committed with the full knowledge of these enforcement agencies, whose officers watch, it would seem gleefully, as the girl-child’s future is brazenly being destroyed.
The role of protecting the girl-child should not be left in the hands of some non-governmental organisations while parents, supposedly the best shields, fold their arms or, worse still, perpetrate the vice.
The courts have done quite a lot in ensuring perpetrators face the full wrath of the law. Those that marry underage girls are heartless defilers who should be kept away from civilised society until they fully reform.
The country has had enough of these savages hiding in tradition and other norms to destroy the future of girls.

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