Lilongwe — Members of the High-Level Task force for women, girls Gender and HIV on Wednesday asked Speaker of the National Assembly, Henry Chimunthu Banda to consider bringing back in parliament the Marriage Bill and increase the marriage age from 16 to 21 years.
This, according to the task force, will enable a girl child to have an opportunity to complete her education while also allows the body to prepare for child bearing.
Prof. Sheila Tlou, Chairperson of the task team said it was pathetic to see that most countries in Africa and Malawi in particular have turned a blind eye to issues concerning a girl child.
Prof. Tlou said unlike a male child, girls are among the vulnerable groups that deserves protection and support from all sectors of the society.
"While we applaud Malawi for doing a commendable job in trying to raise voice on issues to do with a girl child, we would like to register our disappointment with the little progress made in increasing the marriage age from 16 years upwards.
"We feel like 16 years is not enough for a girl child and as such we would like you, Mr. Speaker, consider re-tabling the bill and ensure that the marriage age is increased from 16 to 21 years," Tlou explained emphasizing that an educated girl child has an opportunity to make independent decision and take care of her heath issues.
Banda assured members of the task force team that parliament was ready to reignite debate on the issue.
"You may wish to know that after we increased the marriage age from 15 to 16 years, the public protested against it and to us this meant that there is a lot that still needs to be done.
Let me assure you that I will push for the bill and ensure that it is brought back in parliament," the speaker explained.
He then commended the team for visiting the country and pushing for protection of a Malawian girl child.
Member of Chitipa East, Kenwell Msukwa and Chairperson of the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee committed to support the bill once it is tabled in parliament.
"Let me add my voice by saying that as members of the honorable house we were also not happy with the marriage Bill because it showed how irresponsible we were. However, we are ready to discuss the bill thoroughly and make sure the age is increased from 16 to 21years,"Msukwa said.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Dr. Mary Shawa said once adopted, the bill will give powers to a girl child to take action against violations of her rights and at same time reduce the country's mortality rates which usually come as a result of early child bearing.
Dr. Shawa added that since girls will be getting married at a time when their bodies are matured enough, it is likely that cases of fistula will also be reduced.
Members of the task force team arrived in the country on Monday and have held discussions with a number of stakeholders on how a girl child can be protected and promoted.