Parly urges re­form of mar­riage laws

Lesotho Times - - News - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

THE Na­tional As­sem­bly has adopted a res­o­lu­tion call­ing for the govern­ment to step up ef­forts to end child mar­riages by re­form­ing mar­riage laws and other poli­cies.

The res­o­lu­tion was made on Mon­day af­ter Rothe Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment (MP) ‘Man­thabiseng Phohleli, said cases of child mar­riage were es­ca­lat­ing.

The leg­is­la­tor said sta­tis­tics from the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment re­vealed at least 1 742 girls were mar­ried be­fore the age of 18, while at least 1 567 ado­les­cents dropped out of school due to preg­nancy.

Ms Phohleli said the time had come for the govern­ment to in­ten­sify ef­forts to end child mar­riages by re­form­ing mar­riage laws and re­lated leg­is­la­tion to en­sure they are in line with in­ter­na­tional and re­gional hu­man rights in­stru­ments.

“I raise this mo­tion wor­ried by the alarm­ing rate of child mar­riages in this coun­try. Both in­ter­na­tional and con­ti­nen­tal laws state that any­one below the age of 18 is re­ferred to as a child,” the MP said.

In­creas­ing cases of child mar­riage and preg­nancy were se­ri­ously im­pact­ing on the vic­tims’ per­sonal and aca­demic de­vel­op­ment.

“What is also shock­ing is that 40 per­cent of un­der­age girls in the SADC re­gion go into early mar­riages. Ac­cord­ing to UNICEF, 19 per­cent of un­der­age girls in Le­sotho en­tered into child mar­riages,” said Ms Phohleli.

“As the House, we need to fight for the rights of these chil­dren by en­sur­ing that laws are put in place to pro­tect them. Child mar­riages have many nega­tive con­se­quences for this na­tion.”

The leg­is­la­tor also pointed out such mar­riages were con­tribut­ing to high ma­ter­nal and child mor­tal­i­ties since the bod­ies of teenage girls would be ill-equipped for the task of car­ry­ing a baby and giv­ing birth.

“Child mar­riages have nega­tive im­pacts on the bod­ies of the vic­tims rang­ing from ill­ness, loss of life dur­ing preg­nancy and when giv­ing birth, be­cause their tiny bod­ies are not yet fully de­vel­oped to per­form such du­ties. UNICEF stud­ies have re­vealed that un­der­age moth­ers die more fre­quently dur­ing preg­nancy and birth com­pared to fe­male adults,” she said.

Ms Phohleli said the prac­tice com­pro­mised ef­forts to im­prove the lives of Ba­sotho and ham­pered ef­forts to at­tain Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDG) which are an in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal set of as­pi­ra­tions to end poverty, fight in­equal­ity and in­jus­tice by the year 2030. SDG num­ber three, ti­tled Good Health and Well­be­ing, seeks to en­sure healthy lives for all.

Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Lekhetho Rakuoane then asked Ms Phohleli if child mar­riages were on the in­crease be­cause there were no laws pro­hibit­ing them or be­cause they were fu­elled by cul­tural norms.

In her re­sponse, Ms Phohleli said mar­riage laws needed to com­ple­ment, rather than con­tra­dict each other.

She said cus­tom­ary Lerotholi laws state if a child is raped, the de­ci­sion to sue the per­pe­tra­tor lies solely with the par­ents who might de­cide to ne­go­ti­ate with the abuser.

“The truth of the mat­ter is we hide these atroc­i­ties in the name of cul­ture, hence my call for this house to urge the govern­ment to en­act laws that will pre­vent child mar­riages,” said Ms Phohleli.

Rothe MP ‘Man­thabiseng Phohleli

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