Hwange speaks on Marriages Bill
Hwange (Indonsakusa-New Ziana) – The Hwange community has expressed mixed feelings towards the proposed Marriage Bill which seeks to harmonise marriage laws into a single Act, and re-align them with the constitution.
Speaking during public hearings hosted by a Joint Parliamentary Portfolio Committee headed by the Justice Committee, women in Hwange said while overall the bill supported the rights of women, some provisions were detrimental to their interests.
They singled out the age of 18 that a girl is allowed to marry, and the scrapped civil partnership provision as areas of concern.
A local female councilor, said the minimum age of consent provided in the bill for marriage was too low, and should be increased from 18 to 21.
“At 18 years, a child will be doing her Ordinary level or Advanced level; we cannot tolerate children to be marrying at that age. The tolerable age is at least 21 years where a child would have finished her college,” she said.
The bill says in section 1 part 2, no person under the age of eighteen years may contract a marriage or enter into unregistered customary law or a civil partnership.
A local civic group, Bwalo Matalikilo Trust echoed similar sentiments, and added that polygamy also affected women and children.
Cabinet has since scrapped Section 40 of the Marriages Bill which recognized “civil partnerships” which had stirred up strong opposition across the board in the country.
This related to rights that cohabiting couples had been granted upon separation, which was widely seen as promoting polygamy and adultery, and devaluing legal marriages.
Civil partnerships are defined in the bill as relationships between a man and a woman who are both above the age of 18, are not related and have a relationship as a couple living together.
These partnerships are not considered to be marriages or the equivalent of a marriage.
Seven teams made up of members of three Parliamentary committees, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, the Portfolio Committee on Women’s Affairs, Community Development and the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development conducted the hearings.
Steven Ngwenya, the acting chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said the public hearings were important to Members of Parliament and the public at large.
“These public hearings provide an excellent opportunity for interested organisations and individual members of the public to make known to Members of Parliament, face to face, their views on this important Bill,” he said.
According to a schedule released by Parliament, the seven teams will cover all the 10 provinces in the country.