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FIGHTING EARLY MARRIAGES

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NO child should be forced to enter marriage just to make the parents or guardians rich without regard for the minor’s health.
Some parts of our culture need to be scrapped to stop parents from forcing children, especially underage girls into early marriages.
Child marriages in this country are rampant, especially in rural areas where the practice is taken as normal.
Today, we have a report of 16 girls retrieved from marriages in Eastern Province and their parents fined.
Alert teachers noticed that the girls were conspicuously missing from classes and after some inquiries, found that the youngsters had been married off.


The law prohibits marriage of under age children but this does not stop parents from imposing their will on their innocent offsprings and forcing them into marriages.
Most parents are driven by economic reasons in marrying off their children. For a cow and some goats, they are ready to trade off their girl-child into marriage with no regard to the impact that such a union would have on their health.
Young girls forced into marriage have to endure child bearing at an early age which compromises their health.
The greediness of parents is to blame for this unfortunate development and it is important that local communities intensify sensitisation programmes against the practice of early marriages.
Such developments in the rural areas are making the fight against child marriages difficult because when the community agree on an illegality, they hide the deed(s).
It is therefore gratifying that chiefs in many parts of the country are taking part in the fight against child marriages and holding parents and guardians accountable for their role in the scourge.
Some traditional leaders have gone a step further to enact by-laws through which the perpetrators of child marriages can be dealt with.
In the case in point, parents of the girls from marriages in Chipata have been ordered to pay a cow or make eight thousand bricks.
This follows a resolution by the Zingalume by-laws on ending child marriage steering committee in the district.
By-laws steering committee secretary Induna Zingalume confirmed the development in an interview and explained that “Some parents were summoned by Chief Zingalume at his palace and after they were found guilty of marrying off their young daughters, they were ordered to bring either a cow or make 8, 000 bricks as penalty.”
It is sad that the teachers who act as whistle blowers, are being threatened with witchcraft for causing the parents to be fined.
This may result in teachers failing to report on future cases for fear of being bewitched. They would rather turn a blind eye than live with the threat of being bewitched, especially that in rural areas, such beliefs are taken very seriously.
The Induna said teachers from various schools decided to blow the whistle after noticing that girls as young as 12 years had stopped attending classes and later discovered they were married off.
The Induna said he had received reports of teachers being threatened for disclosing information of children who were married off.
The parents are apparently waiting for the rain season to “strike” the teachers for betraying them.
It is important that the ministry of Community Development and Social Services, Ministry of Health and police send officers to sensitise people in this area.
More importantly, to ensure that teachers are protected from the lame threats of angry parents.
It is really shameful that instead of sending girl children to school to gain an education for a better future, parents would rather confine their daughters to a life of hardships and squalor.
Such mindsets need to change.