22 March 2018

Zimbabwe: Unpack Marriages Bill, Say Women Parliamentarians

Women parliamentarians want more information unpacking the proposed Marriages Bill for them to push for its enactment into law once it is tabled in Parliament. Taking turns to contribute towards some of the provisions in the proposed Bill at a meeting hosted by the Women's Coalition in Harare yesterday, the legislators said at the moment, they were not fully conversant with some of the Bills' provisions and what harmonisation of all marriage laws entails.

Beitbridge Senator Tambudzani Mohadi said parliamentarians would appreciate more time and engagement on the Bill with women's groups pushing for its enactment.

"Information availed today was just a scratch on the surface and we would appreciate more engagement on the issue, going into section by section of this proposed Bill so that we fully understand what it means," said Sen Mohadi.

She said this information would equip them with the necessary arguments to put forward when pushing for the Bill's enactment, especially if it is met by opposing views in Parliament.

Proportional representation legislature from Matabeleland South Province Cde Abigail Damasane weighed in by calling for a simplified version of the current laws governing marriages in Zimbabwe.

"When I was coming for this meeting, I came across a pamphlet summarising all these laws and my appeal is to also come up with something similar on marriage laws, probably in point form so that all legislators fully comprehend what to advocate for," she said.

The proposed Bill is expected to amend the Marriages Act and Customary Marriages Act and all outdated laws relating to marriages.

The Bill would also remove contradictions in statutes where the age of sexual consent is 16 years and yet the age allowable by law for one to get married is 18 years.

All marriage laws existing in Zimbabwe would now be recognised and traditional chiefs will also be empowered to solemnise a marriage. Commenting on the provisions of the Bill, proportional representation legislator Cde Lilian Zemura said if passed into law, traditional chiefs must also be educated on child marriages.

"Since chiefs will now be marriage officers when they themselves are deep rooted in cultural practices, they must be educated on child marriages so that they do not solemnise marriages involving young girls in the name of culture."

Bulawayo Central legislator Ms Dorcas Sibanda also called for the establishment of a support fund to assist children who will opt out of early marriages once the Bill becomes a law.

Zimbabwe Women Lawyers (ZWLA) Association director Mrs Abigail Matsvai Pasipanodya assured the parliamentarians that there will be more engagement on the Bill once it is tabled in Parliament.

"ZWLA will be available to provide you with the necessary information that you might need for this Bill to pass. This is the first engagement in a series of other sessions to come.

"We will be banking on you to raise all the issues that do not speak to the rights of women and children" she said.

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