Catherine Tendai Maponga
Child Marriage is internationally recognized in law as a form of gender based violence because both are human rights violations. It puts girls and young women at an increased risk of sexual, physical and psychological violence and other related outcomes throughout their lives. Gender based violence including child marriage is also associated with poor mental health, depression and loss of lives . As a child marriage survivor I realized that poverty, religious beliefs, School dropouts among others as the key causes of Child marriages. The author is going to discuss more about these causes of child marriages.
Poverty is the first and main cause of child marriage usually for girls in rural communities. A number of survivors confessed that they entered into child marriages after dating a guy or an old man from a rich family in order to serve them selves and their families from poverty. Thus, many survivors entered freely or were forced into early marriage to ensure that their families benefit some financial and material stability.
Survivors of child marriages also perceive religion to be a cause of child marriages in rural Zimbabwe. Survivors mentioned the presence of religious sects, such as the Marange vapostori that support child marriages. This dominant religious group in Zimbabwe tolerates child Marriages as long as the marriage is sanctioned by “the Holy Spirit”. The general belief Of the vapositori churches is that whatever the prophet or leader says should be Religiously followed. Most of the church leaders of this sect are in polygamous Relationships, and they continue to marry young girls of their choice from their Congregants. A good example is that of Memory a young girl who died after being impregnated my a Marange old man.
Moreover, indulging in premarital sex is also another cause of child marriages. This is because after having sexual intercourse with a man then the girl will get pregnant and be forced to go and stay with the man responsible for the pregnancy. At customary law if you get pregnant you go and stay with the one responsible despite the old age. Sometimes indulging in premarital sex is caused my peer pressure. The study also revealed limited awareness on the best child development practices as a Perceived cause of child marriages. Limited sex education and parental guidance has Seen many children engaging and being forced into premarital sex resulting in early Pregnancy and marriages. Even with strong legislative frameworks such as the Constitution of Zimbabwe that condemn rape and child marriages, rural girl children Continue to be abused as their guardians are not aware of these instruments and the procedures when faced with such problems.
Child Marriage is the lost opportunity and hope for attaining education, getting better employment opportunities, independence, the ability to command basic needs and to rescue our households out of poverty. This confirms that failure of child bride are not able to attain education is one of the detrimental effects of Child marriages.
Child marriages also result in school dropouts as the children leave school and get married. It also destroys and affects childhood and youth livelihoods, whilst in marriage they missed playing with friends and the love of their parents. A majority of survivors wish to be young again to enjoy their childhood which they missed because of child marriages.
In child marriages there are high incidences of domestic violence and divorce. From what we experienced as survivors child marriage is the key driver of domestic violence, high divorce rates and vulnerability to sexually transmitted diseases. In most cases , the low maturity level of the bride, heavy responsibilities and misunderstandings account for domestic violence and results in mental health disturbances and depression.
Catherine Tendai Maponga
Catherine Tendai Maponga is a 25 year old child marriage survivor working on achieving her LLB Honor’s degree from Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University. She comes from Maponga Village in Shamva district of Mashonaland Central Province. She is passionate about advocating for the protection of women and children’s rights especially girls and young women. She has been doing advocacy work towards Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights issues and ending child marriages since 2019 when she was rescued by RMT from Child Marriage.