UN Welcomes the Constitutional Court Ruling on Child Marriages

Harare, 22 January 2016: The United Nations system in Zimbabwe welcomes the recent ruling by the Constitutional Court outlawing marriage of persons below the age of 18. This is a landmark ruling that will advance child rights in Zimbabwe by helping to end the harmful and prevalent practice of marrying children, especially girls.

The ruling not only upholds the Constitution but also reaffirms Zimbabwe’s commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

Just this week, child marriage was a subject of debate in Geneva where the Government of Zimbabwe presented its Second State Party Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. We are delighted that the ruling sends yet again another powerful signal of Zimbabwe’s commitment to fulfil its obligations under national and international law.

In Zimbabwe, according to the 2014 Multiple Cluster Indicator Survey (MICS), 32.8 percent of women aged between 20 and 49 years were married before the age of 18. Furthermore, child marriage has a distinct gender dimension: 24.5 percent of girls aged 15-19 years are currently married or in a union while only 1.7 percent of boys in the same age group are married or in a union.

Child marriages are not only an affront to the dignity and well-being of individual girls; they also deprive nations of the social and economic benefits that derive from an educated and skilled female population.

The ruling also underscores the need to reform the current Marriage Act and the Customary Marriage Act to align them with the Constitution. The UN looks forward to a speedy process of reforming these laws as this will be a necessary and important step towards eliminating child marriages.

The new 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which commenced implementation in January 2016, aim, inter alia, to realize gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities.

As such, as the UN System in Zimbabwe, we stand ready to support the law reform process; efforts to strengthen enforcement mechanisms; initiatives aimed at educating the public on the need to do away with the practice of marrying children; and continued efforts towards the achievement of all SDGs for all Zimbabweans.