Girl-child needs to be protected

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Sonny Phiri and Rumbidzai Sibanda

Her Point Of View  Wendy Nyakurerwa
A child’s upbringing, from birth to adulthood, is a delicate process. If compromised, it might lead to a distorted life. From the moment the foetus is safely tucked inside the mother’s ever-protective womb to the moment they become mature adults that can make their own decisions, a simple misplaced decision derails everything.

When young girls, mischievous as they can be and totally oblivious to the consequences of their actions, are psychologically manipulated into sexual relationships and early marriages by male adults, somebody has got to blow the whistle.

Taking advantage of these young girls is morally and legally wrong, it is tantamount to playing soccer with a blind-folded opponent.

The Research and Advocacy Unit report titled “Let them grow first: Early marriages in Zimbabwe” revealed that 30 percent of Zimbabwean girls get married before they turn 18.

Now whether the girls would have agreed to the union or not, something is gravely wrong here.

If some girls are getting married from as early as 13, then that means these youngsters have to drop out of school.
Of course, no qualifications are required for one to start their own family but surely education adds dignity to life.

The perpetrators of such acts are quick to defend their nauseating behaviour, claiming that these unions are consensual.

It is therefore critical to hasten to point out that no words of consent in terms of marriage or sexual matters that come from a girl below 16, which is the age of consent, should ever be taken seriously.

One might ask why.

Simply because the girl is still too young and therefore still incapable of making such decisions.
The only rational decisions such a girl can make are academic, not romantic. Usually, the young girls go into the relationships for all the wrong reasons, chief among them being to spite their ‘‘controlling parents”.

This is the reason why section 70(1) (a) of chapter 9:23 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act criminalises sexual encounters with minors.

Whether it is by consent or not, statutory rape takes into account the fact that immature females need to be protected from voluntarily engaging in sexual intercourse due to their incapacity to appreciate the implications involved.

Therefore, these young women in question actually rely on society to protect them from their own blunders, not to capitalise on them.

They (young girls) need to be guided accordingly. Unfortunately, this has not been the case, older men are feasting on the minors. Girls as young as 13 have been married, some of them voluntarily while some have actually been forced into the unions.  Cases that grabbed public outcry include the marriage of former Star Kidz presenter Makanaka Wakatama to businessman Obvious Sambadzi when she was only in Form 3.

Then very recently, former Miss Zimbabwe Lorraine Maphala’s husband Sonny Phiri grabbed headlines last week when he was dragged to court by Rumbidzai Sibanda’s father who claimed the Bulawayo businessman had been intimate with his daughter when she was only 15.

Rumbidzai let the man off the hook after testifying in court that she was actually 16 when she started sleeping  with him.

Well, while Phiri might be ululating at his narrow escape from the jaws of prison after being saved by his teenage concubine, some were left feeling dizzy from wondering how 51-year-old Phiri can admit to being intimate with a 16-year-old child and still not feel ashamed.

Outraged by these and several other child marriage cases, debate has been raging in the legal circles that there is a need to realign the country’s marriage and children’s laws with the new constitution so that the girl child is wholly protected from men who have insatiable appetites for under-age wives and sex partners.

The law needs to be strengthened in its quest to protect the girl child from her own immature decisions.
Apostolic sects have been fingered as the main culprits when it comes to child marriages.

Therefore, the announcement that the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe will soon conduct a campaign to educate members of Apostolic and Zion churches against child marriages, as announced by its president, Bishop Ndanga, is most welcome.

Besides the fact that the young girls who are getting married early are not yet mature psychologically, biologically they are still children with bodies that are not yet fully developed for safe birth.

Medical experts say that teenage mothers are at greater risk of medical complications.

Pelvic bones do not reach their maximum size until about the age of 18, therefore the pelvis of the teenage mother may not have grown enough to allow vaginal delivery of a normal-size baby.

For this reason, the incidence of caesarean section is higher in teenage mothers.

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