UN condemns Zimbabwe child marriages after 14-year-old girl dies giving birth

Edited By: Moohita Kaur Garg WION Web Team
Harare, Zimbabwe Published: Aug 08, 2021, 04:59 PM(IST)

A file photo of logo of United Nations. Photograph:( AFP )

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Due to this case, the practice of child marriage has been brought to light within the apostolic churches of Zimbabwe, reportedly these churches also allow polygamy

Following the death of a 14-year-old girl after giving birth at a church shrine, the United Nations has condemned child marriage practice in Zimbabwe. The death of the girl has caused outrage among citizens and human rights activists.

The practice of child marriage within the apostolic churches of Zimbabwe has been brought to attention by this case. It has also been reported that these churches also allow polygamy.

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Governments in this African country have traditionally looked the other way when it comes to child marriage.

It is worth noting that Zimbabwe has two distinct marriage laws, the Marriage Act and the Customary Marriages Act. While there is no minimum age for marriage consent in either of these laws, polygamy is allowed by customary law.

Parliament is currently debating a new marriage bill that seeks to synchronise laws, criminalise marriages of under 18-year-olds, and prosecute anyone involved in the marriage of a minor.

In a statement, the UN in Zimbabwe said it finds it deeply troubling and strongly condemns the circumstances leading to the death of 14-year-old Memory Machaya in rural Marange.

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"Sadly, disturbing reports of the sexual violation of under-age girls, including forced child marriages continue to surface and indeed this is another sad case," the UN said in a statement.

Nearly one in three girls in Zimbabwe get married before turning 18 years old, according to the UN's office in Zimbabwe.

In addition to the police, the state gender commission of the country said it is investigating the circumstances of the girl's death and burial.

According to local media, the girl died last month, but her death only came to light last week after enraged relatives, barred by security from attending her burial, told the state-owned press about the incident.

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People in Zimbabwe have expressed their outrage on social media.

"What you see today, i.e. a young girl forced to marry, get pregnant, & dies, is not an aberration! It is part of the same continuum. Female persons are not seen as fully human, with individual rights, choice, rights to control our own bodies," Everjoice Win, a feminist and rights activist, wrote on Twitter.

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With their promise of healing illnesses and releasing people from poverty, the apostolic churches, which shun hospitals, attract millions of followers.

(With inputs from agencies)

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