FIRST Lady Christine Kaseba has called for the introduction of a new law to criminalise perpetrators of early marriages to help curb the vice.
Dr Kaseba said criminalising the act was the only sure way of fighting early marriages to ensure the protection of the girl-child as well as seeing a reduction in such practices.
Dr Kaseba said the current percentage of girls being married off before the age of 17 was high in the country and needed to be reduced by 2015 through the establishment of stiffer penalties.
Speaking during the official launch of the Regional Symposuim on Ending Child Marriages at Lusaka’s Mulungushi International Conference Centre on Wednesday evening, Dr Kaseba said there was need to strategise on how best the vice could be completely curbed.
“It is sad that 46 per cent of women had been married off before the age of 14 years, the victims are subjected to devastating effects and become victims of gender and domestic based violence, physical abuse and neglect, I urge law makers to consider criminalising this offence,” she said.
Visiting United Kingdom Secretary of State for International Development Justice Greening said Zambia had enjoyed an impressive economic growth and had seen 1.2 million more children in schools and 40 per cent reduction in child mortality.
She commended Zambia’s commitment to scaling up social protection to those living in extreme poverty saying the country’s economic and social development had been underpinned by its political development.
“Today Zambia is known across Africa as a model of democracy. Zambian people are not only voting in free and fair elections, they have a genuine say in the running of their country and at the same time we know there are still real development challenges for Zambia to overcome,” Ms Greening said.
“We recognise that Zambia’s growth is in Britain’s interests as well as yours. And the British High Commission here is working closely with the Zambian government to improve our two countries’ business links and promote trade,” she said.