VICE-PRESIDENT and Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has said Government will channel more resources to protect children’s rights.
At commemorations of the Day of the African Child and official opening of the 23rd Session of the Junior Parliament, VP Mnangagwa said Government was committed to educating every child.
“Government will continue to support children to go to school and become educated. An educated person will not give preference to marriage,” he said.
Traditional leaders, he said, should not encourage girls to get married.
“Any cultural beliefs which you have should not encourage these children to go into early marriages for whatever reason, even if it is cultural,” he said.
VP Mnangagwa said children were entitled to protection by the country’s courts.
He said although the Constitution protected children, moderate corporal punishment could be meted out.
“(Our law) outlaws marriage of those who are below the age of 18 years. The statutory laws on marriage should be harmonised with the Constitution, a process which my ministry is doing,” he said.
He said child marriages were impermissible and perpetrators should be reported to the police, because the Marriages Act (Chapter 5:11) “categorically states that ‘no girl under the age of 16 shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage except with the written permission of the minister’, myself”.
The VP added that any consensual sexual intercourse with someone between ages 12 and 16 was statutory rape (having sexual intercourse with a minor).
VP Mnangagwa said about 10 Bills relating to children’s rights were at various stages of drafting.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa added that child marriages were a curse to be fought from the economic front.
“We must make O-Level compulsory to keep our children in school and as Government we will continue to take education as a priority to fight child marriages. The economic crisis we are facing is not permanent so we need to encourage our children to continue going to school,” he said.
Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Chris Mushowe said Zimbabwe was privileged to have President Mugabe as its leader.
“We want you children to be the vanguard of our hard-won Independence because we are fortunate to have a President who is supportive of children’s development,” he said.
He said child marriages were anti-social and must be stopped.
Minister Mushowe paid tribute to President Mugabe for supporting the less-priviledged through the Presidential Scholarship Scheme, which has seen more than 20 000 vulnerable students attain university education.
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