Katete District Child Protection Committee has rescued two sisters from being given away into a forced marriage by their mother. Katete District Social Welfare Officer Joyce Msoni has confirmed that the two girls are now under the care of Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) for their own safety.
Ms. Msoni narrated that Sophia Mwanza, a mother of Chipopela village in Chief Mbang’ombe area had started with giving away her 18-year-old daughter into marriage with an old man of Chief Msoro’s area.
However, when her 18-year-old daughter refused and ran away from home to go and stay with her father, the mother in desperation attempted to force the 15-year-old daughter to marry the same man.
The committee, working on reports from its informants, quickly moved on the ground to amicably counsel the mother to the girls, who are now under YWCA custody for their own safety.
Apparently, the parents to the two girls are separated and the girls have been staying with their mother.
“This is a broken family. These children are staying with the mother while their father stays with his own household, so we have decided to take these children to the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) for safety as we counsel the mother,” she said.
And narrating her ordeal, the 18-year-old daughter said her mother forced her to marry a man, but she refused and ran off to her father’s house.
The teenage said she was later shocked to learn that her mother had decided to turn her desperation on her 15-year-old young sister.
She disclosed that her young sister, who has come of age, was locked up and being initiated by Alangizi ( traditional marriage counselors ) preparing for marriage with the same man.
“My young sister was beaten on several times by the Alangizi and she was even locked up in the house for the whole day,” she said.
The 18-year-old said when she discovered what was happening to her young sister she reported the matter to her father, who in turn advised her to report the case to the police.
The 18-year-old disclosed that she cleverly rescued her sister from her house confinement when the Alangizi were away and alerted the police station at St Francis Mission Hospital one stop center about their predicament.
And in her defense, the mother to the two girls Sophia Mwanza vehemently denied ever contemplating or even acting on forcing marriage on her daughters.
Ms Mwanza said she was not even aware that her children were going to be married off and hence accused their father of having knowledge of the whole ordeal.
“Those issues of marriage I am not aware, if you want information on that, maybe try asking their father,” she said.
Ms Mwanza accused her ex-husband of failing to providing support to the girls, while she accused her 15-year-old daughter of being promiscuous to the extent of luring other people’s husbands.
Under Zambian law, it’s illegal to “marry or marry off a child.” It’s also illegal to sexually abuse a child. Both crimes have a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Advocates say those existing laws don’t do enough to end child marriage.