Child marriage in Zimbabwe has been condemned by the United Nations following the death of a 14-year-old girl who gave birth at a church shrine, an incident causing outrage among citizens and rights activists.
It has brought to light the practice of child marriage within Zimbabwe’s apostolic churches, which also allow polygamy.
Child marriage has traditionally been overlooked by the government. In Zimbabwe, there are two sets of marriage laws, the Marriage Act and the Customary Marriages Act. There is no minimum age for marriage consent in either of these laws; polygamy is allowed by customary law.
Parliament is about to debate a new marriages bill that seeks to synchronize the laws, ban marriages for anyone under 18 and prosecute people who marry minors.
The United Nations. Zimbabwe said in a statement that it was deeply concerned and strongly condemns the circumstances leading to the death of Memory Machaya, the 14-year-old girl from rural Marange in the east of the country.
In a sad statement, the U.N. said, “Sadly, disturbing reports continue to surface about sexual abuse of underage girls and forced child marriage. The statement was dated Aug. 7.
U.N.’s office in Zimbabwe, which coordinates all 25 U.N. agencies, said one of three women in Zimbabwe are likely to be married before they turn 18 years old. The country’s agencies.
State gender commissions and police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death and burial of the girl.
It has been reported by local media that the girl died last month, but the case came to light only last week after angry relatives, who were barred from attending her burial by church security, told their story to state-owned media.
Johanne Marange church could not be reached for comment.
Despite shunning hospitals, the apostolic churches attract millions of followers with promises to heal illnesses and deliver people from poverty.
The outrage has been expressed on social media by Zimbabweans.
There is nothing abnormal about what you see today, where a young girl gets pregnant, gets married, and dies! It belongs to the same continuum. Everjoice Win, a feminist and rights activist, wrote on Twitter, “Female persons are not seen as fully human, with individual rights, choices, and the right to control our own bodies.