COURT WATCH 2015
[13th January 2015]
Challenge to Child Marriage will be heard in the Constitutional Court
on Wednesday 14th January
The first Constitutional Court sitting of 2015 will be on Wednesday 14th January. The third case on the court roll is a constitutional challenge to child marriage taken by Mr Tendai Biti on behalf of the applicants:
Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs,
the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development and the Attorney-General
The court sitting will start at 9.30 am. The sitting will be open to members of the public and all those interested are encouraged to attend.
Note: This case is the third one on the court roll, so it is not possible to predict what time it will start. The two earlier cases may be postponed or dismissed or heard in full.
This case will be of particular interest to everyone interested in the constitutional rights of women and children, especially the rights of the girl child, and the constitutional principle of equal protection and benefit of the law without unfair discrimination on the ground of sex or gender.
It concerns child marriage – the marriage of girls or boys under the age of 18 – in Zimbabwe. The applicants argue that new provisions in the Constitution have made 18 the marriageable age for both girls and boys – and that existing laws such as the Marriage Act and the Customary Marriages Act are now unconstitutional to the extent that they do not provide for proper protections against child marriage and its associated abuses which the country is obliged to provide by under the Constitution and its international commitments.
The applicants’ objective, therefore, is to persuade the Constitutional Court to issue an order declaring:
- that under the Constitution no-one in Zimbabwe, whether girl or boy, may enter into a marriage, including an unregistered customary law union, before attaining the age of 18 years;
- that section 18 of the Marriage Act, which allows marriage before 18, is unconstitutional;
- that the Customary Marriages Act is unconstitutional to the extent that it does not provide for a minimum age of 18 years for marriage.
Note: In many countries where 18 is the minimum age of marriage, there are provisions for special circumstances, but these are strictly limited - the minors should be over the age of 16 and the approval of a judge of the High Court should be obtained, given after the judge is satisfied from reports of social welfare officers that marriage would be in the best interests of the parties and that the minor has freely and unreservedly consented.
Constitution Watch 1/2015 of 8th January gave a more detailed explanation of the constitutional provisions that will be raised in this case and the shortcomings of the existing laws governing marriage.
The Constitutional Court is situated at the corner of Samora Machel Avenue and Third Street.
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