The Zimbabwean Constitutional Court has outlawed child marriage in the country, ruling that marriage before the age of 18 is now illegal.
Judge Vernanda Ziyambi stated that the ruling is effective immediately and applies to both boys and girls under the age of 18 regardless of whether they are “unregistered, customary or religious” unions.
The court’s decision was spurred by two women who brought their case to the court in 2014 after they were both forced in to marriage as teenagers and became pregnant.
Tendai Biti, the women’s lawyer stated “it is a great day for women and the girl child.
“Parliament should now legislate for tougher jail sentences.”
One of the women, Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, was 15 at the time she was married and returned home to her parents due to both physical and emotional abuse, she informed the court. She stated that her “life is hell at the moment and cannot be wished on anyone else.”
Loveness Mudzuru, who was also married at 15 and by the age of 19 had two children said, “raising a child when you are a child yourself is excruciating and painful.”
In November last year Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a video which called for the end to child marriage in Zimbabwe. Now, the hope is that with the implementation of the new law, cases of child marriage will dramatically decrease. However, it is not only the old law that fueled child marriage in the country, “extreme poverty, harmful religious beliefs, and traditional practices” are major factors in the its continuation, HRW stated. Nearly 1 in 3 women, at the time HRW released the video, were married before the age of 18 in Zimbabwe.