The Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) national inquiry on child marriages and sexual exploitation and abuse of young girls in Zimbabwe has revealed deep rooted cases of child abuse in Harare’s Hopley suburb.
In an interview with 263Chat on the sidelines of the inquiries at Tariro clinic in Hopley, ZGC deputy chairperson Commissioner Obert Matshalaga expressed concern over the scourge of child marriages in the area.
“Most of the young girls are getting married at 14-15 years and what is most interesting is that some of them they appear like they were indulging already in sexual activities. Speaking with the authorities here they say young girls would come demanding sexual protection as early as 10 years so sexual activity is rife and it translates into early marriages particularly when the girls are caught. They do not come back home early, the parents will simply say go back to where you are coming from.
“We have two or three cases where we heard a girl went away from home and came back late but was told to go back and I asked the lady on why she returned to the boyfriend instead of going to an uncle or aunt’s place she responded by saying in this environment I do not have them nearby so they end up going to the boyfriend. The most difficult thing is that normally they are accepted back by the boyfriend and the parents immediately try to initiate marriage processes unaware that it is illegal for them to marry when they are below 18 it’s a big problem,” said Commissioner Matshalaga
He said there is need to mobilise communities and identify ways of handling the situation.
“They say it’s a very difficult situation because one of the biggest problem that we have is that most of these young girls do not have birth certificates and its difficult for the police to even arraign and the young man once caught up in this processes there is need for cooperation from the parents to have somebody arrested but where it’s a hash situation it’s very difficult. What is needed is to mobilise communities to police the process and to identify ways of handling the situation at community levels,” he said
Hopley residents who attended the hearings attributed the rampant early marriages to high levels of poverty, peer pressure and drug and substance abuse.