Parents or guardians who accept lobola from men seeking to marry girls under 18 years of age could in future face prosecution, together with their children’s suitors, if a motion before Parliament is approved and incorporated in the statutes.

 In the debate on a motion which began on Thursday, legislators want the age of marriage for both males and females raised from 16 to 18 years.

Senators across the political divide this week questioned Prosecutor-General Mr Johannes Tomana’s recent sentiments that children aged 12 years could get married if they were idle.
Midlands Senator Lilian Timveous (MDC-T) is steering the motion in the Upper House calling on Government to enact and enforce laws that raise the age of marriage to 18 for both girls and boys.

While the laws are meant to protect both sexes, it is girls who are the most affected by child marriages due to economic circumstances, culture, religion and abuse by male adults.
Sen Timveous called for urgent re-alignment of existing laws to the Constitution.

“The Marriage Act Chapter 5.11 is unconstitutional because it allows marriage for people below the age of 18,” she said.

“Sections 20 and 22 of this Act say, “a girl between the age of 16 and 18 can marry with the consent of her mother or father”.

“The Customary Marriage Act, Chapter 5.07 is also unconstitutional on the basis that it does not provide for a minimum age of 18 years for marriage.”

Mashonaland Central Senator Monica Mavhunga (Zanu-PF) said under the envisaged dispensation, men who marry children under 18 years would be prosecuted.
“If a person is engaged in child marriage, one should be given a deterrent punishment,” she said.

“All those people who agree to these early child marriages should also be taken as accomplices and be sentenced as well because they are equally guilty.”

Chiefs representative in the Senate, Chief Musarurwa of Mashonaland East, trashed Mr Tomana’s sentiments, saying anyone who married a 12-year old girl was a rapist.
“As a mother, does it not affect you to accept that lobola?” he said. “That is witchcraft. You are bewitching your own child by carrying out such practices.”
MDC-T Senator for Matabeleland South, Sithembile Mlotshwa, supported the motion, saying there was need to protect girls.

“I think 18 years still is not enough for the girl to consent to marriage because marriage is a very serious affair where you need to have your act together, where you need to exactly know what you are supposed to do,” she said.

“I really believe Zimbabwe must take a leading role in Africa by showing that it is taboo that young girls are being married. Africa is the worst place when it comes to the child marriages.”

Senator Alice Chimbudzi of Zanu-PF (Mashonaland Central) added: “My question is, how beautiful is a 12-year old child and why should that child be betrothed to a man?”
Mr Tomana torched a storm when he reportedly said children should be allowed to choose marriage as an option if they were idle.

Many Zimbabweans reacted angrily to Mr Tomana’s remarks and called for his resignation. First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe this week joined the debate, saying Mr Tomana’s comments were irresponsible.

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