Zimbabwe court ruling hailed by activists


Zimbabwe‘s top court has outlawed marriage for anyone under the age of 18 in a ruling hailed by activists as major progress towards ending child marriage, Agence France Presse reports:

The Constitutional Court in Harare issued its decision after a case was brought by two women who suffered poverty and a lack of education after being forced into child marriages.

“This judgement offers serious protection to children and women who are the unfortunate victims of early marriages,” Tendai Biti, a lawyer for the women, Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, told AFP…. Veritas, a legal group that led the constitutional court bid, applauded the ruling.

“This is a great day for gender equality, women’s rights and children’s rights and the fight against poverty,” it said, adding that it hoped other Africa countries would follow suit.

Veritas is a partner of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

“We hope neighboring countries will make similar efforts to eradicate this grave human rights abuse, especially nations that still legally allow for girls as young as 12 years to be married,” said Vukasin Petrovic, director for Africa Program at Freedom House::

Child marriage is most prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa, the region with 9 of the 10 countries having the highest rates of child marriage in the world. Many southern African states have laws that outlaw child marriage but allow traditional law exceptions. Before the court ruling, Zimbabwe’s Customary Marriages Act did not set a minimum age for marriage. 

Zimbabwe is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2015, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2015, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2015.

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