3 Apr 2011

Two Zimbabwe senators tell parliamentary committee marrying underage girls is their religious right

Newsday - Zimbabwe April 1, 2011

Chiefs defend girl-child marriages


Chief Chiduku, a senator for Manicaland this week stunned a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee when he said there was nothing wrong with marrying off underage girls.

He said this during a committee hearing where male gender activists, Varume Svinurai/Vhukani Madoda Men’s Forum had appeared before the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development to give oral evidence on children’s rights.

The male gender activists had castigated cultural practices where young girls in some parts of Zimbabwe and certain religious sects were being married off to elderly men.

They were advocating for the inclusion of clauses that protected vulnerable children in legislation to do with children’s rights and the Domestic Violence Act.

Chiduku was supported in his assertions by another chief, Tsungirirai Muzerengwa senator for Buhera.
Chief Chiduku and Chief Muzerengwa are both members of the apostolic faith sect.

“You mentioned that the people in Chipinge and the apostolic sects are breaking the law by marrying off underage girls,” said Chief Chiduku. “But it is their culture and religion that you are condemning.”

He challenged the men’s forum to suggest which age they thought was ripe for girls to get married.

He said at 16 years, most girls were unable to look after themselves and therefore needed to get married.

“If a girl is 16 years, she is unable to take care of herself and so she should get married,” chief Chiduku said. “Members of the sect who marry these young girls really take care of them. Besides, these girls undergo virginity tests and whether they are virgins or not, those members of the sect who marry them take good care of them.” 

However, Temba Nzounhenda, the organising secretary of the Men’s Forum stood his ground in defending the rights of the girl child and said the law stipulated that a 16 year old girl was underage.

Fred Misi, the chairman of the Men’s Forum said it was imperative to make virginity testing compulsory for all girls under 16 as a way of identifying those who might have been abused them with a view to punishing the perpetrators.

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