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Legislators push for age verification before marriage

Legislators seek  to make it compulsory for  those  who intend to  enter into the holy matrimony to produce birth certificates as   proof that they  have reached the legal age .

This came out during the presentation of the proposed bill to amend the Births and Deaths Registration Act, the Children’s Act ,the Customary Law Marriages Act ,Marriages Act and the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act to Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa by Harare West Legislator, Jessie Majome.

Majome, who chairs the Parliamentary Committee on Justice, Legal  and Parliamentary Affairs revealed that the Bill is proposing to make it compulsory for persons who want to get married to produce birth certificates if the marriage officer suspects that both parties involved are under age.

She said this is done to “protect minors from would be predators who will want to prey on them by forcing them to get into marriage,” said Majome.

According to the proposed Customary  Law Marriages  bill  the new section substituted for section 5 of Cap 5:07 says “The Customary Marriages Act [Chapter 5:07], is amended by the repeal of section 5 and the substitution of the following―

“ Proof of age of parties to proposed marriage

(1) If parties appear before a customary marriage officer for the purpose of contracting a marriage with each other and such marriage officer suspects that either of them is of an age which debars him or her from contracting a valid marriage, he or she shall refuse to solemnize a marriage between them unless he or she is furnished, to his or her satisfaction, with proof of age of the party concerned,”

The proposed Bill goes on to say, “Any person who produces false documents or information in order to be granted person to marry shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level seven or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”

Majome said the new bill, which is in line with government’s move to align all laws to the 2013 Constitution will protect children from being lured  into early marriages where they are likely to bear  the brunts of abuse.

In coming up with this bill, we are putting the lives of minors first and protecting them from people who want to take advantage of the young ones,” she said.

In his response, Acting president Mnangagwa who is also the Minister of Justice, Legal  and Parliamentary Affairs said the bill will be adopted once it meets the right requirements and has passed through parliament.

He however said there are still some sticking issues which need to be ironed.

“There is a clause which is proposing that headmen and District Officers be accorded the right to be marriage officers that does not make sense as we cannot have the whole village being marriage officers.

“We need to keep the marriage institution respectable by letting qualified people handle marriages,” Mnangagwa said in reference to Amendment of section 2 of Cap 5:07 which says “the Customary Marriages Act [Chapter 5:07], is amended in section 2 by the deletion of the definition for “customary marriage officer” and the substitution of the following―

Customary marriage officer” means―

  • a magistrate; or
  • municipal district officers; or
  • traditional leaders; or
  • an official or chief appointed to be a customary marriage officer in terms of section 18,”

The new bill also seeks to align the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act in relation to the marriage Act.

Government is currently in the process of aligning all laws to the new constitution and various thematic committees have been tasked with conducting consultations on different ministries represented.

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