—Some petitioners in Luangwa district have submitted to the on-going Legal and Justice Sector Reforms Commission that the laws of the land should be reviewed to provide for stiffer punishments for parents who marry off girls below the age of marriage together with offenders of early marriages.
And petitioners have also submitted that adults who impregnate girls below the age of 16 should be prosecuted for defilement in order to curb early marriages especially in rural areas.
Kennedy Chansa, a resident of Luangwa Township, contended that laws are not fair on early marriages as they only provide for the prosecution of offenders and not parents of girls who marry off their girls hence the trend has continued.
Mr Chansa observed that high levels of poverty in rural areas have led to early marriages because parents try to earn an income by selling off their female children, which he said can be stopped if the law provides for punishment for parents and offenders.
Mr Chansa also noted that teen pregnancies caused by adults should be treated as rape so that offenders are punished instead of allowing them to marry the girls.
Meanwhile, Women for Change Executive Director, Emily Sikazwe, stated that the consequences of child marriages are tantamount to death.
Mrs Sikazwe explained that girls who are forced into motherhood at an early age normally fail to cope with pregnancies and might end up losing her lives or those of their babies.
She noted that the high maternal mortality rate in the country is due to child marriages hence the need to curb it.
She further admitted that laws are there to protect girls from rape and defilement but do not provide protection for the boy child.
But chairperson of the Commission, Frederick Chomba, observed that subjecting children to attending night gigs, where they dance almost naked, has contributed to high number of rape and child marriage cases in Zambia.
He noted that of late laws to prevent children from such functions are not enforced hence girls and boys are allowed to watch musicians who clad in skimp clothes when dancing or performing on stage.
A Public Health Doctor also made a similar observation on child marriages when he made his submission to the Commission, saying doing so was against children’s human rights.
Dr Danford Makai recommended to the commission for stiffer punishment for parents and offender of child marriages, saying a minimum of 15 years penalty was not stiff enough to deter would-be offenders.