Maputo — A bill outlawing child marriage passed its second and final reading in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Thursday to the delight of representatives of women's organisations who were watching from the public gallery.
Once it has been promulgated by President Filipe Nyusi, and published in the official gazette, the "Boletim da Republica", the bill will become law.
The bill confirms 18 years as the minimum age for marriage, eliminating the loophole in the Mozambican Family Law whereby minors could marry at 16, with the consent of their parents.
Tough penalties of between 12 and 16 years imprisonment are envisaged for any adult who marries or enters into a sexual union with a child. Such a sexual union is regarded as rape, and the penalty may be increased if the rapist infects his victim with a sexually transmitted disease.
Any parent, guardian, step-parent or other person looking after children who authorises a child marriage, or forces a child into marriage, will be sentenced to a jail term of between two and eight years.
A child marriage may be annulled by the girl's parent or other legal representative, and by the Curator of Minors. However, the marriage remains valid if, on reaching the age of 18, the partner or partners who were previously underage expressly declare before the relevant authority that they wish to remain married.
The bill, which women's organisations have campaigned for over several years, was not controversial, and passed unanimously and by acclamation.