Editor's Comment

Together, we can root out child marriages

Early marriage child mother.

WE APPLAUD a team of State security and World Vision Zambia (WVZ) officials that acted swiftly and in unison to stop an illegal wedding ceremony of a 15-year-old Grade Seven pupil and a 22-year-old man in Mumbwa on Friday.It is sad that child marriages have continued to occur in rural communities despite their devastating consequences and being illegal under the Zambian laws.
On the other hand, it is commendable that frantic efforts are being made by various stakeholders to stop the scourge and the recently foiled Mumbwa case is one such example.
On Friday, a team of WVZ, police, Mumbwa gender-based violence committee, and Chiefs and Traditional Affairs officials disrupted a wedding ceremony involving a minor.
Some named parents wanted to marry off their 15-year-old daughter to a 22-year-old man, Lloyd Mutinta, of Masuka Mabwe village, without her consent after accepting a calf as bride price.
It is, however, commendable that before the wedding of the underage bride and groom could be sealed by a kiss, a team of State security and WVZ officials appeared on the scene, bringing the event to a halt.
What is particularly impressive is the way the team coordinated its operation to stop the illegal wedding.
While the police officers used their legal authority to order the event to a halt, the headman was also on hand to ensure families of the bride and groom co-operated with the team that needed to have a meeting with them.
Right at the scene, WVZ officials conducted an emergency sensitisation meeting to enlighten the gathering on the dangers of infringing on children’s rights.
This was very important. It is evident from the prevalence of child marriages that there is need to highten sensitisation.
That the parents of the underage bride invited her head teacher to be the guest of honour at the ceremony, is indicative of their ignorance on the illegality of child marriage.
The head teacher must be commended for playing an important role of informing other stakeholders on the happenings leading to the successful foiling of the wedding.
Mumbwa WVZ area programme manager Alfred Chushi highlighted that, “Mumbwa has a huge challenge when it comes to child marriages. Such cases are an everyday thing and the problem is that very few are reported to us. In most instances, the involved families just agree and money or animals exchange hands, and a marriage is sealed.”
It is indisputable that child marriage is still a huge challenge not only for Mumbwa but other parts of the country.
It cannot be business as usual when young girls are daily being stripped of their human rights and forced into adulthood by taking on the role of wives and later on motherhood before their time.
This cannot be allowed to continue, especially that the head of State is a champion against child marriage in Africa.
President Edgar Lungu has thrown his weight behind this fight and declared zero tolerance to child marriage.
We know that early marriage, apart from denying girls education and a decent life, exposes them to diseases, especially that in most cases, the grooms are far much older and possibly with more social indiscretions.
During pregnancy and childbirth, underage wives are more at risk of complications and maternal mortality.
The need, therefore, to heighten public sensitisation on the dangers of early marriage, especially among rural masses, where the scourge is rifer, cannot be overemphasised.
It is heartening to see various stakeholders combining efforts to fight the scourge. This is certainly a winning strategy.
While the families were cautioned against child marriage and the girl was left in the custody of her parents, there is need for close monitoring.
This is to eliminate any chances of these parents marrying her off secretly.
If any such plans are detected, the social welfare department should immediately withdraw the girl from the custody of her parents.
As coined by WVZ in its recently launched campaign, “It takes Zambia to end child marriage”.
It will certainly take concerted efforts to win the battle against child marriage.

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