Zambia launches blueprint to end child early marriages

Zambia launches blueprint to end child early marriages

LUSAKA, Zambia | Xinhua | Zambia on Friday launched a policy aimed at ending child early marriages in the southern African nation.

The launch of the ending child early marriage policy follows the enactment of a new law last year which makes it illegal for individuals under the age of 18 years to marry, including under customary law.

The policy was aimed at raising awareness of the problem of child early marriages in the country and fostering collaboration among stakeholders toward its eradication, as well as calling for heightened national commitment to address the scourge.

It also aims to implement sustainable measures to end child early marriages, with the key focus of empowerment by enabling adolescent girls and boys to access reproductive services education and social protection.

Gilbert Phiri, the director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), said the amendment of the Marriage Act was a pivotal step undertaken by Zambia in addressing the problem. He said the new law has provided a single definition of child early marriage unlike in the past where some culprits were perpetrating the vice under the guise of traditional customs and norms.

He pledged his office would ensure that the law was effectively implemented to protect children from the scourge of child marriage. “Child marriage is not only a breach of legal boundary, it is a violation of fundamental human rights, a menace that robs our children of their innocence and potential,” he said.

According to him, his office will also ensure that cases of child marriages do not just end at police stations through negotiations but ensure that they are prosecuted and perpetrators are punished.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative Seth Broekman commended Zambia for launching the policy due to the devastating impact that child marriages has on girls’ lives and their future.

“When girls are forced into marriage, they are denied the opportunity to pursue their education, develop their skills, and contribute to their communities. Child marriage not only shatters the dreams and potential of individual girls but also robs Zambia of its future leaders, innovators and change-makers,” he said.

He noted that with the prevalence rate of child marriages among women aged 20-24 years in Zambia married before age 18 at 29 percent, collective efforts were needed to ensure that the vice was eliminated.

He commended Zambia for amending the marriage law which has provided an enabling legal environment to end child marriages.

The UNFPA, he said, will support Zambia’s efforts to fight the scourge including embarking on awareness programs on the new law as part of systematic positive social norms change interventions.

He added that ending child early marriages, including awareness creation on the law, requires a collective and accelerated effort from all stakeholders. ■

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