End Violence against Women Now – No to Child Marriage!
The Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, a day that has been set aside globally to challenge violence against women and girls as well as to raise awareness on its prevention. The day also marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
This year’s commemorations are being held globally under the theme: “Orange the World, “End Violence against Women Now!” Zimbabwe has coined the theme as Orange the World, “End Violence against Women Now – No to Child Marriage!”
Child marriage is a global problem that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. Like other African countries, child marriage is a major public health and social development challenge for Zimbabwe which is among 41 countries with the highest prevalence in the world. On average, 1 out of 3 girls in the country gets married before their 18th birthday while 5% of women aged 15 to 49 years currently in marriage, were married before the age of 15. Children are further affected challenges relating to access to documentation in Zimbabwe. According to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission National Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe (April 2020 Report), it is estimated that 36% of children, equating to some 2.3 million children, do not have a birth certificate. These children are also at risk of child marriage.
Child marriage is internationally recognised by law as a form of gender-based violence. It a serious violation of human rights which results in negative consequences for the girls, their families and the community as a whole. Child marriage puts girls at the risk of sexual, physical, psychological violence and related outcomes throughout their lives hence the need to come up with measures to put an end to it.
The commemorations come at a time when the statistics of victims of Gender-Based Violence have been soaring globally due to the COVID-19 induced lockdowns. In as much as the restrictions were intended to prevent widespread infection, it adversely increased the vulnerability of women and girls to violence. Some survivors of gender based violence were trapped with their abusers as they were confined to their homes with limited personal movement.
The lockdowns have also seen many victims facing challenges in accessing justice which has been a great cause of concern. The movement restrictions resulted in some cases being reported late or not reported at all. The courts were also inaccessible to some people as they operated at a reduced level, often attending only to urgent cases.
As an organisation, LRF envisions a Zimbabwe where human rights are upheld and all people have access to justice. LRF implores the government to prioritise access to documentation as it has been complicating the resolution of cases involving children. Lack of documentation makes it difficult to prove the ages of minor girls who may have been victims of child marriage. Government also needs to enhance the enforcement of laws that protect girls from early marriage.
On this commemoration, LRF urges all stakeholders to continue the fight against child marriage and achieve the global target of ending this human rights violation by 2030.
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LRF PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE