A 15-year-old child bride, Anna Machaya died giving birth at a church shrine where she was buried on July 15 in Zimbabwe. The police have arrested a 26-year-old man on charges of child rape. Anna’s parents to have been accused of lying about the girl child’s age and even pledging their nine-year-old daughter to Hatirarami Momberume, the same man who married Anna.
The case has exposed minor exploitation in the African country. It has also put the spotlight on widespread child marriage practice in Zimbabwe’s popular Apostolic Church. The famous church is infamous for rejecting medical treatment at hospitals and even medicines.
In 2016, Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court had banned the marriage of both boys and girls before age of 18 in a landmark decision. The age of sexual consent had been set at 16. Despite of the court ruling child marriage has been prevalent across the country.
The circumstances around Anna’s death and burial are under investigation by Zimbabwe’s gender commission and the police. An online petition called “Justice for Memory Machaya” was initiated that has so far received 92,000 signatures, as Anna’s identity was mistaken for Memory Machaya.
Zimbabwean feminist activist Everjoice Win said it was time now that people must start pressurizing those “with the power to uphold the law or make new laws”. She tweeted that women and girls were “not seen as fully human, with individual rights… to control our own bodies”.
Families are still engaging in the practice of marrying of young child girls. According to the child, marriage brings financial gains to families. Child brides are of hope that marriages can bring them opportunities of continuing their education. But unfortunately, girls end up getting pregnant before that while their bodies are clearly not ready for this.
United Nations has urged the government of Zimbabwe to recognize child marriage as a crime, bring offenders to justice and work towards ending the practice.