Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) is deeply disturbed by the continuous violation of children’s rights by faith communities across Zimbabwe, with the latest case of the 14 year old Memory Machaya who died giving birth in a faith shrine in Marange being one of the thousands of such incidences which go unreported and with impunity.
MIHR views this unfortunate proliferation of gross child rights violations disguised under faith as a symptom of impunity and weak regulatory frameworks related to the protection of children’s rights in Zimbabwe. We therefore call on the government of Zimbabwe, the Independent Commissions, the traditional leadership and the faith community to expedite the formulation of mechanisms that protect children from unjust customs, cultures and faith practices, and specifically:
- The government should enact a child protection law that outlaws child marriage, child pledging and places burden on all sectors of the community to protect children from such unjust religious and cultural practices. The Child Protection law should also criminalize any explicit or implicit concealment of child marriage.
- The government should align the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23] with Section 81 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe specifically by defining a young person as a boy or girl under the age of 18 years and not 16 years; and amending Section 64 of the Act to outlaw and actual or inferred sexual consent by children below 18 years.
- The government should develop mechanisms that strengthen the authority of traditional leaders to regulate child unjust cultural and religious practices in their areas of jurisdiction. The mechanism should also place burden of responsibility on traditional leaders that fail to take decisive action to rout out child abusive cultural and religious practices from their communities;
- Faith communities in Zimbabwe should adopt the United Nations Faith for Human Rights Framework as guideline to the operation of faith communities in Zimbabwe;
- Considering that some of these faith communities responsible for the gross violation of children’s rights are attended to by government workers and senior government officials and being cognizant of Section 196 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, we implore the government to put in place enforceable mechanisms that outlaw government workers’ participation in faith and cultural practices that violate the rights of children.
- The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the Zimbabwe Gender Commission institute an inquiry on the state of child marriages in Zimbabwe (especially due to faith and cultural practices) with the view of informing government policy on such matters.
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights is a registered nongovernmental organization that exists to enhance the protection and promotion of human rights and freedoms in Zimbabwe.