Child marriage by 15
Child marriage by 18
|Are there Girls Not Brides members?||58|
|Does this country have a national strategy or plan?||Yes|
|Is there a Girls Not Brides National Partnership or coalition?||Yes|
|Age of marriage without consent or exceptions taken into account||Legal age of marriage - 18 years, no exceptions|
What's the prevalence rate?
2% of boys in Zimbabwe are married before their 18th birthday.
Child marriage is more common in rural areas of Zimbabwe. Available data from the 2014 MICS indicate that 40% of women aged 20-24 living rural areas, compared to 19% in urban areas, were married or in a union before the age of 18.
The provinces of Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West have the lowest median ages of marriage.
What drives child marriage in Zimbabwe?
Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys. In Zimbabwe, child marriage is also exacerbated by:
Poverty: Daughters are sometimes married off to reduce their perceived economic burden, with their bride price (lobola) used by families as a means of survival.
Level of education: Girls from Zimbabwe’s poorest households are more likely to marry before the age of 18 than girls living in the richest households. Many girls drop out of school because their parents cannot afford to pay school fees, which in turn puts girls at a higher risk of being married off.
Religion: Members of the indigenous apostolic church reportedly encourage girls as young as ten to marry much older men for “spiritual guidance”. Men in this church are reportedly entitled to marry girls to shield them from pre-marital sex, with girls becoming second or third wives in a polygamous marriage.
Family honour: If a girl engages in pre-marital sex, is seen with a boyfriend or returns home late, she is sometimes forced to marry to mitigate the shame. Some girls who fall pregnant choose to enter customary marriages because they are afraid their family will abuse them for dishonourable behaviour.
Harmful traditional practices:Virginity testing is still practiced in parts of Zimbabwe by the apostolic church. Girls who are found to no longer be virgins are shamed into wearing a mark on their forehead and are required to find another virgin for their husband to marry as compensation.
What international, regional and national commitments has Zimbabwe made?
Zimbabwe has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. During its Voluntary National Review at the 2017 High Level Political Forum, the government reaffirmed commitment to this target, highlighting that the Constitutional Court outlawed the marriage of people under 18 in 2016.
Zimbabwe co-sponsored the 2017 Human Rights Council resolution recognising the need to address child, early and forced marriage in humanitarian contexts.
In 2014 Zimbabwe signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.
Zimbabwe ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1991, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.
In 2016 the UN Child Rights Committee urged Zimbabwe to establish an effective monitoring system to assess progress towards ending child marriage. It also recommended the government provide survivors with compensation and rehabilitation and conduct an investigation into the alleged involvement of members of religious sects in facilitating child marriage.
During its 2016 Universal Periodic Review, Zimbabwe supported recommendations to address the exclusion of women in the economic, social and political sphere, with specific attention to child marriage.
In 2015 Zimbabwe launched the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa and developed a National Action Plan and Communication Strategy.
In 1995 Zimbabwe ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage. In 2008 Zimbabwe ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, including Article 6 which sets the minimum age for marriage as 18.
Zambia is one of 20 countries which has committed to ending child marriage by the end of 2020 under the Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern Africa.
In 2019, at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, Zimbabwe committed to end sexual and gender-based violence by 2030, including child marriage by implementing the National Plan of Action on Ending Child Marriages, harmonise marriage laws and set age of marriage at 18 years, invest in services for survivors and economically and socially empower women and girls.
Zimbabwe is one of the countries where the Spotlight Initiative (a global, multi-year partnership between European Union and United Nations) is supporting efforts to end all forms of sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls. Zimbabwe is also one of the countries where the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)/DREAMS Initiative is working to reduce rates of HIV among adolescent girls and young women.
Zimbabwe is a partner country of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
What is the government doing to address child marriage?
In December 2018, of First Lady of Zimbabwe launched the National Action Plan (NAP) and Communication Strategy on Ending Child Marriage. With a multi-sectoral approach coordinated by the Ministry of Women Affairs, the key objectives of the NAP are:
Reduce the incidence of child marriage by addressing the root causes, including gender discrimination and school retention.
Support girls in marriages or at risk of child marriage.
Promote child and youth-led initiatives.
Advocate for policy and legal amendments, including harmonisation of customary laws.
Enhance evidence-based programming through collection of data.
The accompanying Communication Strategy aims at transforming social norms and behaviours around child marriage and mobilise media platforms to change gender norms.
Zimbabwe’s National Gender Policy was revised in 2017 and now includes components on addressing child marriage.
Previously, the government of Zimbabwe had also initiated a Life Skills, Sexuality, HIV and AIDS Education Strategy to address girls dropping out of school due to early marriages. This strategy seeks to empower learners and develop positive life skills.
What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?
In 2016 Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court outlawed child marriage in accordance with the constitutional definition of “child” and the right to equal treatment. As a result, no one before the age of 18 may enter into marriage, without exception.
The ruling includes marriages under the Customary Marriages Act which had previously not had a minimum age requirement.
In this country we have a national partnership. Many Girls Not Brides member organisations have come together to accelerate progress to end child marriage in their countries by forming National Partnerships and coalitions. Below is an overview of what and where these networks are, what they do and how they work with Girls Not Brides.
Child Marriage: A Mapping of Programmes and Partners in Twelve Countries in East and Southern Africa
This is a mapping of programmes and partnerships that seek to address child marriage in East and Southern Africa.
"My child marriage free community challenge"
This case study explores the work of the Regional Network of the Children and Young People Trust (RNCYPT), working with religious leaders to address child marriage in Zimbabwe
The Face of Child Marriages in Mashonaland West Province. Girls Voices on Child Marriages in Zimbabwe
This reports looks at the causes and effets of child marriage in the North of Zimbabwe and possible strategies to address it.
Lessons learned from national initiatives to end child marriage - 2016
This report explores lessons learned from the growing number of national initiatives to end child marriage around the world, particular with regards to implementation.
- African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, [website], 2018, https://www.achpr.org/legalinstruments/detail?id=46 (accessed January 2020).
- African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, [website], 2018, https://au.int/en/treaties/protocol-african-charter-human-and-peoples-rights-rights-women-africa (accessed January 2020).
- African Union, Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa: Call to Action, 2013,
- Girls Not Brides, Zimbabwe: former child brides win case to make child marriages illegal, [website], 2016, https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/articles/zimbabwe-former-child-brides-win-case-to-make-child-marriage-illegal/ (accessed January 2020).
- Global Partnership for Education, Zimbabwe, [website], https://www.globalpartnership.org/where-we-work/zimbabwe (accessed January 2020).
- Government of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Voluntary National Review (VNR) of SDGs For the High-Level Political Forum, 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/15866Zimbabwe.pdf (accessed January 2020).
- https://au.int/sites/default/files/pages/32905-file-campaign_to_end_child_marriage_in_africa_call_for_action-_english.pdf (accessed January 2020).
- Human Rights Watch,Zimbabwe: Scourge of Child Marriage, [website], 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/11/25/zimbabwe-scourge-child-marriage (accessed January 2020).
- Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern African, [website], 2014, https://www.youngpeopletoday.org/esa-commitment/ (accessed January 2020).
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3, [website], 2014, http://fngeneve.um.dk/en/aboutus/statements/newsdisplaypage/?newsid=6371ad93-8fb0-4c35-b186-820fa996d379 (accessed January 2020).
- Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Zimbabwe National Action Plan and Communication Strategy on Ending Child Marriage, 2018, https://www.zimgbvportal.org.zw/download/zimbabwe-national-action-plan-and-communication-strategy-on-ending-child-marriage/ (accessed January 2020).
- Nairobi Summit, Zimbabwe commiting ending sexual and gender based violence, [website], 2019, http://www.nairobisummiticpd.org/commitment/zimbabwe-commiting-ending-sexual-and-gender-based-violence (accessed January 2020).
- Spotlight Initiative, Zimbabwe, [website],https://spotlightinitiative.org/zimbabwe (accessed January 2020).
- The Herald, First Lady in drive to end child marriages, [website], 2018, https://www.herald.co.zw/first-lady-in-drive-to-end-child-marriages/ (accessed January 2020).
- The Zimbabwean, Give us books not husbands,[website], 2014, http://www.thezimbabwean.co/2014/08/give-us-books-not-husbands/ (accessed January 2020).
- The Zimbabwean, ROOTS launches ‘Not Ripe for Marriage’ campaign, [website], 2014, http://www.thezimbabwean.co/2014/08/roots-launches-not-ripe-for/ (accessed January 2020).
- U.S. Department of State, United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, [website], 2019, https://www.state.gov/where-we-work-pepfar/ (accessed January 2020).
- UN CEDAW, Sixth periodic report submitted by Zimbabwe under article 18 of the Convention, CEDAW/C/ZWE/6, 2019, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW%2fC%2fZWE%2f6&Lang=en (accessed January 2020).
- UN Child Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Zimbabwe, 2016, p.11, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRC/C/ZWE/CO/2&Lang=En (accessed January 2020).
- UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Zimbabwe, 2016, p.16, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/ZWIndex.aspx (accessed January 2020).
- UNDP Zimbabwe, New National Gender Policy is Launched, [website], 2017, http://www.zw.undp.org/content/zimbabwe/en/home/presscenter/articles/2017/07/06/milestone-as-new-national-gender-policy-is-launched0.html (accessed January 2020).
- United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (accessed January 2020).
- Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT), Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2014, Key Findings, 2014, https://reliefweb.int/report/zimbabwe/zimbabwe-multiple-indicator-cluster-survey-2014 (accessed January 2020).
- Zimbabwe Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019, https://www.unicef.org/zimbabwe/media/2536/file/Zimbabwe%202019%20MICS%20Survey%20Findings%20Report-31012020_English.pdf (accessed September 2020).