Government is coming up with a cocktail of laws, among them making it an offence for parents and guardians who accept lobola for children below the age of 18 as it steps up efforts to clamp down on underage marriages, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa told Parliament yesterday.
VP Mnangagwa, who is leader of Government business in the House and overseer of Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, said several laws that needed to be amended had been identified. He said Government was not waiting for a Constitutional Court ruling outlawing child marriages in order to act, but had already identified several pieces of legislation that ought to be aligned with the Constitution.
He was responding to a motion moved by Proportionate Representative MP Ms Priscilla MisihairabwiMushonga on the need to amend several childrelated laws to protect children below the age of 18 from entering into marriages.
“The Act should also make it an offence for a guardian or other person to enter into a lobola agreement or other customary marriage arrangement or ceremony in respect of a person under the age of 18,” said VP Mnangagwa. He said Section 20 of Marriage Act providing for solemnisation of marriage of a minor with the consent of the guardian or of the High Court would be repealed. VP Mnangagwa said Section 22 of the same law, providing that no boy under the age of 18 and no girl under the age of 16 shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage except with written permission of the Minister would be amended.
“This subsection should be amended to provide that no person under the age of 18 years shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage. Subsection (2) and (3) which envisages that the Minister can give permission to persons under the age of 18 to marry should also be repealed,” said VP Mnangagwa. He said Customary Marriage Act, which was silent as to the age of marriage, would be amended by insertion of a provision that no person under the age of 18 years shall be capable of contracting a marriage.
VP Mnangagwa said Section 70 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, which criminalised extramarital s_ex with a young person, would be amended to remove the reference to extramarital s_ex so as to make it an offence in all cases to have sexual relationship with a young person.
He said Government would consult on the age of consent as the judgment did not require the legislature to take any action on that since it observed that pregnancies below the age of 18 years were a social issue. “Despite the fact that we have identified the sections that need to be amended, it would be noble to conduct consultations to analyse the consequences these amendments would make on children who are already part of child marriages,” he said.