Outlawing child marriages was long overdue

WEDNESDAY’S Constitutional Court ruling that banned child marriages through the outlawing of the Customary Marriages Act was long overdue.

Over the years, under-age girls have been subjected to abuse through illegal marriages.

The practice was rampant among several apostolic sects where adult men would force younger girls into marriage.
According to reports, most of these marriages involving older men and young girls were interpreted as spiritual, based on dreams.

While, before Wednesday’s pronouncement, girls were allowed to marry at 16 and their male counterparts at 18, some older men were targeting even younger girls aged 13.

However, the ruling outlawed the marriage of all persons below the age of 18. Because of an increase in the number of child marriages there was urgent need for authority to put an end to these barbaric acts.

Several children dropped out of school after being married off by their parents, an aspect that destroyed their future.
In some areas because of economic constraints currently affecting the country parents were forced to sell off their younger children, in a bid to raise some income for survival.
Child marriage was one of the worst practices that left many girls in a predicament that took away their future while authorities were finding it difficult to deal with it.

It only took the courage of two young teenage girls who were haunted by their early marriages. The teenagers narrated how it badly affected their future and dented their hopes of making a better living.

They told of how they lost the freedom to act like normal teenagers of their age and to make independent decisions.
Now that a verdict has been given there is need for the government to put the court’s ruling into action.

Over the years the scourge gathered momentum because of lack of the relevant statute that criminalised the act.
The law will now help safeguard children from the abuse.
The government has to educate several apostolic sects dotted around the country that were involved in child marriages on the dangers of this practice and possible consequences to that effect.

This would help deter would-be offenders especially when they become aware of the end result of marrying an under-age girl.
The exercise also needs the involvement of civil society groups and other non-governmental organisations to participate as they would help see an end to child marriage issues.

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