By Vimbai Kamoyo
HARARE –A grouping of United Nations agencies, Zimbabwe United Nations Association (ZUNA), conducted lectures on gender-based violence at a secondary school in the capital on Friday.
The association was commemorating the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence at Kuwadzana High 2. The day is commemorated every year from November 25 to December 10. Three internship students were lined up to do the lecturing.
Talent Musharu, a student from Masvingo-based Great Zimbabwe University talked about the dangers of child marriages and warned students not to marry at a tender age.
“Child marriage is any marriage or union between male and female below the age of eighteen, either one or both of them. It is therefore a criminal offence to sanction such a marriage. You have the right to report whoever asks you to marry before you attain the age of eighteen, your parents included. Child marriages mutate into a vicious cycle of poverty where the child born of that union is likely to drop out of school and marry young again,” said Musharu.
She also castigated some religious organisations for encouraging and promoting early child marriages.
“There are religious organisations that have been fingered in promoting child marriages and that should be condemned,” she said.
In a landmark ruling handed down by the constitutional court in January last year, marriages under the age of 18 were deemed unlawful, specifically sections 22 (1) of Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11) which allowed children of 16 years of age to marry.
The Constitutional Court, in delivering the judgment said: “It is declared that section 78 (1) of the constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 20 of section 2013 sets 18 years as the minimum age of marriage in Zimbabwe
“It is further declared that section 22 (1) of the Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11)or any law, practice or custom authorizing a person under the age of 18 to be married is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution and therefore invalid to the extent of inconsistency.
“The law is hereby struck down. With effect from 20 January 2016, no person, male or female may enter into marriage, including an unregistered customary union or any other union including one arising out of religious rites, before attaining the age of 18,” ruled the then Deputy Chief Justice, now Chief Justice, Luke Malaba.
Some apostolic sect churches have in the past been castigated for supporting and promoting child marriages in their churches.
Barbara Mangeye a University of Zimbabwe student talked about school gender based violence which she said comes in different forms – sexual, physical and psychological.
“School based violence involves acts or threats of sexual, physical or psychological nature that might occur at schools. Sexual violence involves rape or molestations; physical violence encompasses inflicting pain on a fellow pupil and psychological violence involves bullying that occurs at school,” said Mangeye.
Another intern at ZUNA Kundai Mutodi weighed in, saying sexual harassment is bullying or coercion of sexual nature or inappropriate promise of reward in exchange for sexual favours.
ZUNA youth president Brighton Musevenzo who was the leader of the team that lectured at the school said they are now targeting schools because there has been lack of information on gender based violence among high school students.
“We are targeting the high schools because there has been an information gap among high school students as organizations are only targeting colleges and universities. We will visit Glen View high 1 and 2 to do the same programme,” said Musevenzo.