Child marriages are not a Johanne Marange Apostolic sect issue but a national pandemic, Proportional Representation legislator Ruth Labode has said.
Speaking in the National Assembly during the debate on child marriages, Labode said the focus should not be given to the Marange case only. She said:
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The Minister, about early this year, came to Parliament and gave a report of over 5 000 girls who had become pregnant on a period of three months. These are all below 15 and 16.
Currently, Mr Speaker Sir, if you go round all maternity homes where children are delivering. Even the statistics within the Ministry, there are 14, 15 and 16-year-olds.
So, when we are talking of child marriages, let us not isolate it as if it is a Marange thing, it is a national epidemic, and we really need to deal with it in that form.
First of all, we must say what is causing a normal mother to want to marry off a 14-year-old, let us forget about Marange, it is poverty.
According to Labode, poverty is forcing people to marry off their daughters for fear that they will be impregnated. She said:
People are unemployed, parents cannot pay school fees and they opt to marry them out. If they do not marry them out, they go out there and get pregnant.
In her response, the Minister of Women Affairs Sithembiso Nyoni said her ministry has already started engaging stakeholders on the issue. Said Nyoni:
As a Ministry, we have already started. We had a meeting in Mbire in which we had all stakeholders there. These included chiefs, teachers, the children themselves and parents. This was well received.
The debate on child marriages was ignited by the death of Anna Machaya, a 15-year-old girl who died at a Marange apostolic shrine on 15 July during childbirth.