Zimbabwe is among the 20 African countries where child marriages are most prevalent, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed in February.
According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat), 33.7% of girls aged under 18 are married. This is one in three girls under 18. In comparison, 2% of boys get married before reaching the age of 18 years.
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Child marriages are most prevalent in Mashonaland Central, where 52.1% of girls get married before 18, while Bulawayo has the lowest prevalence rate, 10.9%.
Zimstat data also shows that rural girls are twice more likely to be married before 18 than their urban counterparts.
Share of girls married before 18 by province:
- Mashonaland Central – 52.1%
- Mashonaland East – 45.1%
- Masvingo – 43.4%
- Mashonaland West – 42.2%
- Manicaland – 38.1%
- Midlands – 30.3%
- Matabeleland North – 29.4%
- Harare – 23%
- Matabeleland South – 20.3%
- Bulawayo – 10.9%
- Rural – 21.3%
- Urban – 43.7%
Zimstat’s 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) (2019) found that the highest prevalence of child marriages, 50.9%, is among families whose heads identified their religion as “traditional.”
Protestants – who include Adventists, Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians – have the lowest prevalence of child marriages, 16.2%.
Data shows there is a positive correlation between child marriages and poverty. More children from poor households get married early, compared to those with higher incomes.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe, adopted in 2013, sets 18 years as the minimum age of marriage in Zimbabwe.
In January 2016, the Constitutional Court struck down a section of the Marriage Act, which had, for years, allowed children under the age of 18 years to marry.
This was because that particular section was inconsistent with the Constitution.