Photo credit: DFID
Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)
Approximately 1 in 3 girls in Zimbabwe are married before their 18th birthday.
Child marriage predominantly affects girls who live in poverty and in rural areas. Girls from the poorest 20% of the households were more than 4 times as likely to be married/in union before age 18 than girls from the richest 20% of the households. The less education a girl has, the more she is likely to marry during her childhood.
Religion is also a driver of child marriage in Zimbabwe. For example, in the apostolic faith, religion combines with traditional culture, and girls are often encouraged to marry much older men at a very young age.
Legal age of marriage
Laws pertaining to marriage in Zimbabwe are discriminatory against girls: the Marriage Act allows girls age 16 to marry while the minimum age for boy is 18. The Customary Marriages Act does not specify a minimum age of marriage.
In 2013, Zimbabwe adopted a new Constitution which stipulates that “no person may be compelled to enter marriage against their will” and calls on the state to ensure that “no children are pledged into marriage.”
In January 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Marriage Act, which allowed girls as young as 16 to be married with their parents’ consent, was unconstitutional and recognised 18 years as the legal minimum age of marriage.
Initiatives to end child marriage
In August 2015, Zimbabwe launched the African Union campaign to end child marriage. A National Action Plan and Communication Strategy is now being developed.
In 2014, two former child brides Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi filed an application asking the Constitutional Court to declare the Marriage Act and the Customary Marriage Act unconstitutional. In January 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of Loveness and Ruvimbo, recognising that the Marriage Act was unconstitutional.
Several civil society campaigns or programmes to end child marriage have recently been launched, including:
- The 18+ campaign, by Plan Zimbabwe
- The “Give us books, not husbands” campaign by Katswe Sistahood
- The “Not Ripe for Marriage” campaign by Real Opportunities for Transformation Support (ROOTS)
Members In Zimbabwe
- Africa Women’s Filmmakers Trust (AWFT)
- African Girl Child Development and Support Initiative (AGCDSI)
- Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust (AWET)
- Atubuke Rural Development Foundation (ARDEV)
- Childline Zimbabwe
- Communities Working on Access to Education and Rights in Zimbabwe (CATER Zimbabwe)
- Destiny for Women and Youth Empowerment
- Family Bonds Foundation (FBF)
- Female Empowerment and Development Association (FEDA)
- Justice for Children (JCT)
- Katswe Sistahood
- Marvel acts Youth organisation of Zimbabwe (MAYO)
- Masvingo Youth and Adolescence Group for Edutainment Trust (MY AGE)
- National Junior Councils Associations Of Zimbabwe
- Network for Empowerment of Women and Girls (NEWAG)
- Padare Enkundleni – Men’s Forum on Gender
- Plan International
- Real Opportunities for Transformation Support (ROOTS)
- Regional Network of the Children and Young People Trust (RNCYPT)
- Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI)
- Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU)
- Rozaria Memorial Trust
- Safe Passages
- Shamwari Yemwanasikana
- Shanduko Yeupenyu Child Care Trust
- Spark READ
- Tag a Life International (TaLI)
- Tariro Youth Development Trust (TYDT)
- The Consortium for Women’s Rights, Development and Peace (CWRDP)
- The Future Generations
- The Voice of Africa
- VSO International
- Women Advocacy Project (WAP)
- Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA)
- ZiMwana Worldwide
- UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2016