EKENIA Chifamba, Director Shamwari yeMwanasikana a Non-Government Organization that provides support for and supports the empowerment and emancipation of the girl child in Zimbabwe has called on policy makers to bridge the gap between the constitution of Zimbabwe and the criminal law and codification and reform act so as to protect the girl child.
By Patricia Mashiri
The constitution of Zimbabwe criminalizes marriage of a girl that is below the age of 18 whilst clashing with section 70 of the Criminal law and codification and reform act which says a young girl of the age of 16 can consent to sex which makes it difficult for courts to deal with rape cases.
Speaking during a virtual meeting on child marriages in Zimbabwe, Ekenia Chifamba said there were many factors which leads to child marriages, the law being one of the push factors because if a 16 year old consent to sex and becomes pregnant she will be forced to go live with the person who impregnated before reaching the age of 18.
The issue surrounding realignment of policies in Zimbabwe. These are young girls even if they make certain decisions in life, we can see that these are uninformed decisions. We can see that they are coming from backgrounds where the community is not supportive, where parents are not supportive.
“We are having so many perpetrators walking freely because the law fails to fully protect and support these young girls. Some of these young girls who are willing to report are left traumatized and drained because the court procedures are too long,” said Chifamba.
She added that most parents were being traumatized watching people who would have raped their children doing community service at a nearby schools or hospitals.
“The next person within the community who also wants to go and report a similar case is in a position not to do so because they are afraid it’s going to happen again. We are calling for these gaps to be addressed because we are facing challenges. The moment the legal framework is set it sends a message to the perpetrators out there that they will be handled accordingly.”
The COVID-19 lockdowns has worsened the issue of child marriages and teenage pregnancies in Zimbabwe.
“We continue to see negative aspects of social norms on harmful traditional and religious practices focusing on what is happening in areas of worship where the freedom of worship is then utilized as a weapon to violate young girls rights. The practice is mainly dominant in these religious sects especially the Marange sects.
“With most churches majority of their followers are socialized into a doctrine which does not allow them to believe in certain things. That’s why it is difficult to have a conversation around gender-based violence within the church setup. The government need to start regularizing the operations of the churches so that they submit their work plans and all activities need to be monitored by government,” Chifamba said.
Meanwhile, Fadzai Ruzive, a representative from Women and Law in Southern Africa said there was need for realignment of the law as other pieces of legislation allow a girl at the age of 16 to consent to sex.
“There is need for the office that maybe to deal with sexual offenses continuously because these cases take a long to be dealt with at the courts of law this then frustrates the victims and most of them end up dropping charges.
“Policy makers need to advocate for realignment of laws so that there will be no contradictions when dealing with sexual offenses,” Ruzive said.