Applaud Zimbabwe for Outlawing Child Marriages

child_bride_rod_waddington

Target: Mr. Mutevedzi, Chief Registrar of the Supreme and Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe

Goal: Applaud new policy that bans child marriages.

Nearly a third of girls in Zimbabwe marry before the age of 18, which puts them at risk of becoming victims of sexual violence, raises the likelihood of severe or even mortal injury during childbirth, and contributes to women’s lack of education across the country. On January 20, the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe banned marriages and civil unions of anyone under the age of 18 and struck down a part of their Marriage Act that allows girls 16 and over to get married.

Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, two former child brides, took the government of Zimbabwe to court to challenge the practice of child marriage across the country. Legally backed by the human rights group ROOTS, these two women discussed the injustice and inequality of a law that prevents boys from marrying until an age when they have completed high school, yet allowed girls to marry at just 16 years old. This led to the Constitutional Court’s ruling against child marriages. Mudzuru, who was married by 16 and had two children by 18, said, “I really am happy that we have played an instrumental part in making Zimbabwe a safe place for girls.”

Due to poverty, child marriages often occur out of need. Impoverished families in mining and farming towns of Zimbabwe marry off their young girls in order to have fewer mouths to feed in the household. As a result, four percent of Zimbabwean girls get married before the age of 15 and start families of their own without a high school education, and before they have reached mental, social, and emotional maturity. This has continued a cycle of poverty. With the court’s new ruling against child marriages, girls will not be deprived of an education and forced to raise a family so young.

By signing this petition, you are thanking Mr. Mutevedzi, Chief Registrar of the Supreme and Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe for banning marriages of girls under the age of 18, thereby decreasing their risk of victimhood of sexual violence and injury or death by childbirth.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Chief Mutevedzi,

Due to your efforts, new policies have been made to protect young girls from being married and deprived an education. As you know from hearing Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi’s challenge to the government about the previous Marriage Act of Zimbabwe, the marriage of young girls deprives them of an education, puts them at risk for serious or mortal injury during childbirth, and continues the cycle of poverty throughout the country.

According to UNESCO, allowing women to receive a secondary education worldwide can prevent 12 million children from stunting as a result of malnutrition and can reduce child deaths by half, saving 3 million lives. Prohibiting girls under the age of 18 from marrying ensures that they will continue with their education and protects the lives and health of their potential children.

Thank you so much for taking steps to protect young girls from early and unfair marriage and enforcing policies to ensure further gender equality throughout Zimbabwe.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Rod Waddington

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