A Positive Step towards Ending Child Marriages

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Author: 
B Mushowe
Journal Citation: 
Midlands State University Law Review
Media Neutral Citation: 
[2017] MSULRJ 1
Publication Date: 
18 August 2017

 

On the 20th of January 2016, the Zimbabwean Constitutional Court handed down a crucial landmark judgement on an issue that had for long remained unsolved in the fight against child sexual abuse. It outlawed child marriages in the long drawn case of Loveness Mudzuru & Ruvimbo Tsopodzi vs Minister of Justice, Legal & Parliamentary Affairs N.O; Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender & Community Development & Attorney General of Zimbabwe, (hereafter known as the Mudzuru & Tsopodzi case). On this day, Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba sitting with a full Constitutional Court bench ruled that any marriage between a man and a woman where one of them is below the age of 18 years is unconstitutional therefore illegal in Zimbabwe. This being a Constitutional Court judgement, it immediately effectively repealed sections of the Marriage Act1 that allowed for a girl of 16 years and above to get married. It also in effect inserted an age limit of 18 years and above for marriage into the Customary Marriage Act2 which was silent on the age of marriage and was thus allowing marriage at any age. Even though the judgement affects both boys and girls, as was expected, it was widely celebrated as a victory for the girl child since the issue of child sexual abuse and indeed child marriages in Zimbabwe is a gendered issue that almost affects girls only. The judgement therefore stands out as a landmark ruling that brought to an end an undesirable dark era where child sexual abuse and exploitation was being perpetrated and promoted under the guise of marriage.