30% of girls marry before 18

OVER 30% of girls in Zimbabwe get married before reaching 18 years with poverty, religious practices and forced marriage cited as major contributors behind that, a report by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) has shown.

The report titled — Let Them Grow First: Early Marriages in Zimbabwe, which was launched last Thursday — highlights findings of a research on early marriage which was bankrolled by the Canadian Embassy.

RAU’s communication and campaigns co-ordinator Natasha Musonza said in a statement the research demonstrated the need for Zimbabwe’s marriage laws to be aligned.
“Study findings indicate the need for harmonisation of marriage laws and alignment with the Constitution. 31% of Zimbabwean girls are married before the age of 18,” she said.

The research was done in 2013 in Goromonzi to establish the factors that influenced early marriage in the country and extensive interviews were conducted with women married before the age of 18 and their communities.

“Reasons for early marriage of young girls in Goromonzi include the desire to escape from poverty and mistreatment at home, oppressive religion and the emphasis on virginity that traps girls into marriage with whoever deflowers them whether it was consensual or not,” Musonza said.

She also cited the conflicts in laws relating to marriage such as the Children’s Act, the Marriage Act and the Customary Marriages Act, which have different provisions regarding the ages of marriage.

“The alignment of laws with the new Constitution, or lack thereof, remains one of the key challenges propagating the problem of child marriages. Close to a year on since the promulgation of a new Constitution, nothing has been done yet to align laws affecting children’s rights to the Constitution,” Musonza said.

She said the research also established that most married girls did not finish secondary school and often got pregnant before their bodies were ready for safe birth.

“If a young girl lost her virginity before marriage, whoever breaks her virginity had an obligation to marry her. This is made worse by the fact that sometimes society assists in concealing rape cases of minors by allowing the rapist to offer to marry the victim in order to escape going to jail,” she said.

RAU was founded in 2006 to undertake independent research particularly into issues pertaining to women, children and State institutions.


A link to the article can be found here.