Punitive marriage law proposed
A PERSON who marries a minor or marriage officers who bless child marriages face up to two years in jail if new marriage law proposals are adopted.
The draft amendments compiled by women’s organisations and child rights activists were submitted to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week.
The proposals seek to amend five laws: the Birth and Deaths Registration Act, Children’s Act, Customary Marriages Act, Marriage Act and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act in a bid to end child marriages in the country. “Any minister of religion or any person authorised by the authority governing the religious denomination or organisation concerned who fails to comply with this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level seven or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or to both such fine and such imprisonment,” reads Section 11 of the proposed amendment.
The draft also states that a person who marries a child below 18 years would be sentenced to two years imprisonment.
“Any person who marries a person below the age of eighteen years contrary to subsections (1) and (2), he or she shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level seven or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or to both such fine and such imprisonment,” says the proposed legislation.
Harare West MP (MDC-T) Jessie Majome said the draft Bill seeks to prevent child marriages.
She said the draft removes all provisions that promote or abet child marriages in the country’s laws.
“It also seeks to amend the Customary Marriages Act by introducing a marriage age which is defined as 18 years age,” she said.
The MP said the draft Bill also seeks to make it more urgent to register births by reducing the period from four to five days to just 24 hours.
She said the draft also proposes headmen as well as municipal officers to be recognised as marriage officers.
“It seeks to have the Minister of Justice expand people that he may appoint as marriage officers beyond the present chief, ministers of religion and magistrates to headmen as well as municipal district officers in town so that it’s easier to register a marriage and see who might be trying to marry a child.