Vice-President Mrs Inonge Mutukwa Wina has cautioned United Nations (UN) Member States that unless efforts to end the scourge of child early and forced marriages are accelerated in the next 12 years, more than 150 million girls across the globe face the risk of being married off before their 18th birth day.
Vice-President Wina has observed with concern that 15 out of the 20 countries with the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world, are African countries with incidence rates ranging from 31 percent to as high as 75 percent.
The Vice-President has told member states present at the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, that ending the practice of child marriage by the year 2030, the target set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would require accelerated efforts.
Vice-President Wina was making interventions at the High Level side event which was themed: “Accelerating efforts to end female genital mutilation and child marriage by 2030.”
She stated that the scourge of child early and forced marriage continues to deny the girl child basic fundamental rights such as a chance to be a child, live a life free of violence and sexual abuse.
She further reiterated that the scourge of child early and forced marriage often robbed girls of the opportunity for career, vocational advancement and ultimately denying them the chance to make meaningful contributions to the economic development of their communities.
Vice-President Wina enlightened delegates that in Zambia, child early and forced marriages are driven by a number of social and economic factors which included negative social norms, lack of access to education and poverty.
“Child marriage continues to deny our girls their basic fundamental rights, a chance to be children, to be able to choose when and whom to marry including living a life free of violence and sexual abuse. Of the 20 countries with the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world, 15 are in Africa, with prevalence rates ranging from 31 percent to 75 percent. Ending the practice of child marriage by 2030, which is the target set out in the Sustainable Development Goals, will require acceleration of efforts, without which more than 150 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday within the next 12 years,” her Honour, Vice-President Wina said.
Vice-President Wina stated that Zambia is currently making consultations with all relevant stakeholders including the traditional leadership in exploring possibilities of criminalising child early and forced marriages with a view of eradicating the vice.
She however, said Zambia has continued to make tremendous progress in the campaign to end child early and forced marriages which has since seen the prevalence rate dropping from 42 to 31.2 percent as at 2013.
She further explained that Zambia is among the 35 African countries which have adopted laws on the minimum age of marriage as well as harmonising the age of a child in order to strengthen the protection of children.
“Additionally, we are in the process of coming up with a Children’s Code which is expected to improve the justice system pertaining to children by strengthening child protection systems. Let me take this opportunity to emphasize that the mere enactment of laws that prohibit child marriage, though a positive first step, is meaningless unless they are supported by other factors like creating an enabling environment for social change and fostering strategic partnerships,” the Vice-President said.