Zimbabwe Just Banned Child Marriage With the Help of These Former Child Brides

Zimbabwe Just Banned Child Marriage With the Help of These Former Child Brides
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court ruled in favor of two women who appealed to the court to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 for all genders and effectively banning child marriage in the southern African country. 

Loveness Mudzuru was married at 16 and had two children before her 18th birthday. In 2014, she and another former child bride, Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, filed an application with the court asking that it repeal Marriage Act and the Customary Marriage Act, which allowed girls to marry at 16 but boys at 18, according to Reuters.

The country's first steps toward addressing the problem of child brides came in 2013, when Zimbabwe adopted a constitution that stated "no marriage is entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses" and specified that no children should be "pledged" in a marriage. 

Still, the problem continued to flourish in Zimbabwe, with the UNICEF's State of the World's Children 2015 report estimating that 31% of the country's girls are married under the age of 18. 

"I'm delighted. This is a milestone in the campaign to end this scourge in society," Beatrice Savadye, the head of the Real Opportunities for Transformation Support organization, told Reuters. In August 2014 ROOTS launched their "Not Ripe for Marriage" campaign, echoing Mudzuru and Tspodzi's call to end child marriage in Zimbabwe. 

The same month, Katswe Sistahood started its own initiative called "Give Us Books Not Husbands," pointing to the way child marriage disproportionately affects girls without access to education. 

According to the International Center of Research for Women, education has been key to eradicating child marriage in countries such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand. But in the meantime, girls who are married under the age of 18 face a higher risk of contracting HIV, and pregnancy still remains "among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide." 

"Raising a child when you are a child yourself is hard," Mudzuru told Reuters, calling her life as a child bride "hell." She added, "I should be going to school."