Zimbabwe’s constitutional Court has outlawed section 22(1) of the Marriage Act (chapter five) as inconsistent, a move which criminalises marriages of girls under the age of 18.
This follows a court application that sought to protect children’s rights especially, girls who were subjected to early marriages by Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, through their lawyer, Mr Tendai Biti of Tendai Biti law firm.
“The application has succeeded and we set 18 years as the new minimum age of marriage. Section 22(1) of the Marriage Act Chapter 5:11 is inconsistent and invalid. Therefore the law is stripped down,” ruled the court, which was being chaired by Florence Ziyambi.
The law which has been stripped section 22(1) of Marriage Act Chapter 5:11 stipulated that no boy under the age of eighteen years and no girl under the age of sixteen years shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage except with the written permission of the Minister, which he may grant in any particular case in which he considers such marriage desirable: Provided that— (i) such permission shall not relieve the parties to the proposed marriage from the obligation to comply with all other requirements of this Act; (ii) such permission shall not be necessary if by reason of any such other requirement the consent of a judge is necessary and has been granted.
However, according to the customary marriage act there was no specific marriage age for those aiming to enter into a customary law marriage.
Speaking after the ruling, Biti who is also the President of People’s Democratic Party applauded the court for such a judgment which he dubbed bold.
“Since the birth of the constitution this is the most far reaching judgment and very bold decision, to just clear that no person under the age of 18 male or female can marry.
“This is a fundamental protection of children in particular girls. You do not find such judgments in South Africa or anywhere in the world where jurisdiction is considered modern,” said Biti.
The application was filed against the ministries of Gender and Development, Justice, legal and Parliamentary affairs and the Attorney -general in October 2014.