Thursday, 15 January 2015

Judgment reserved in marriages case

By Tendai Rupapa
Judgment in a case in which two teenagers filed a Constitutional Court application challenging the Customary Marriages Act claiming it allows girls to get married at an early age has been reserved.
Lawyer: Tendai Biti
The two girls – Loveness Mudzuru (20) and Ruvimbo Tsopotsi (19) – fell pregnant at the age of 15 and 16 respectively.

Through their lawyer, Mr Tendai Biti, the pair is seeking an order barring children from entering into unregistered customary law unions before the age of 18 and that, “any registered customary law union contracted by a person below the age of 18 years, be declared null and void”.

The law prohibits the marriage of girls below the age of 16.

In their application, the two girls cited the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs as the respondent.

In his submissions, Mr Biti told the court that the legitimate age of marriage in Zimbabwe should be 18.

He said the law in terms of Sections 20 and 22 of the Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11), provided for a girl between the age of 16 and 18 to be married with the joined consent of her mother and father.

Mr Biti argued that in terms of the Customary Marriages Act (Chapter 5:07), there was no specified marriage age for persons intending to contract a customary law marriage.

“I would also like to challenge the constitutionality of Section 22 of the Marriage Act as it breaches fundamental issues contained in Section 56(i) of the Constitution which calls for the equality and non-discrimination . . . we must move with the times,” he said.

“As a result of Section 22 of the Marriage Act, 31 percent of girls in the country were involved in early marriages before reaching 18 years of age between 2002 and 2011.”

Mr Biti submitted that the rights of a girl child in Zimbabwe should be protected by the law.

Law officer Ms Olivia Zvedi argued that the pair was not properly before the court hence the application should be dis- missed.

But Mr Biti described Ms Zvedi’s argument as shocking.

The full Constitutional Court bench reserved judgment on the matter. The Herald
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