MWAPE MWENYA, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT has, since 2013, withdrawn over 1,000 girls from marriage and taken them back to school.
Minister of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs Lawrence Sichalwe said in an interview that Government launched the campaign on Ending Child Marriage with the vision to have a Zambia free from the scourge by 2030.
“The main goal is to achieve 40 percent reduction by 2021. My ministry has been instrumental in coordinating the campaign and facilitating local activities,” Mr Sichalwe said.
He said child marriage is in most cases driven by poverty, harmful traditional practices and certain beliefs which expect girls to be married off instead of going to school.
Mr Sichalwe said the ministry has formed a consortium of 10 ministries and various stakeholders to fight child marriage and ensure that children are taken back to school. For those who require welfare, they are also linked to relevant ministries.
He said the gaps in marriage and child-related laws are not favourable to advance gender equality for children.
“For examples, the Marriage Act establishes the age for marriage at 21 but also permits younger people of minimum age of 16 to marry with parental consent. The national gender policy and other acts define a child as one who is under the age of 18 while the penal code act no.1 of 2012 defines a child as anyone under 16,” he said.
Mr Sichalwe said as a way to deter child marriage incidences, the penal code penalises sexual offences with persons under the age of 16.