Liberalisation of casual sex in schools fuels child marriages – Chitimukulu

Mabumba High day school,
Many children live a long way from school and prefer to rent accommodation nearby. Grade 12 pupil Dorcas, 17, stopped attending the Mabumba High day school, about 20km east of provincial capital Mansa, after becoming pregnant. She said: “We were staying the three of us [girls], then we started sharing the house with three guys and that is how we paired ourselves. We just wanted some form of emotional support; life is really tough out there. So, the whole of last year we were living together with the guys and would have [unprotected] sex almost every night but everything was OK.” ~ Dorcas. Photo Credit - Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

PARAMOUNT Chief Chitimukulu says the liberalisation of casual sex in schools has given rise to child marriages in the country.
The Chitimukulu, speaking in an interview at the Women for Change/ Plan International SADC Traditional Leaders’ conference on Ending Child Marriages, said some children marry early because they became sexually active while in school.
He said the free distribution of condoms in schools has contributed to what he termed the liberalisation of sex among children who are not ready for marriage.

The traditional leader observed that nowadays, there are more school girls getting pregnant and getting into marriages that do not last because of early indulgence in sex.
“Because of the liberalisation of sex, girls end up pregnant and when they are chased from home, most of them end up in short-gun marriages. These short-gun marriages don’t last because there is no commitment; they are found on body chemistry,” he said.
Chief Chitimukulu said at times, it is difficult to stop the young girls from engaging in illicit activities because they defend their actions in the name of human rights.
He said the government has the power to stop the free distribution of condoms in schools and subsequently reverse the sense of impunity towards casual sex.

The Chitimukulu further cited cultural considerations and inadequate education facilities in rural areas as some of the factors that were fuelling early marriages and consequently perpetuating poverty among women.
He said traditionally, parents want their daughters to marry at the “flowery” age when one is believed to be more marketable and possibly stands a better chance of producing children.
“Then there are also parents who think the treasury is in their daughters, so if there is a rich man, they will marry their daughter to him,” he said.
He said there is need to sensitise chiefs and girls on the benefits of education, otherwise the bad cultural norms and values that promote child marriages will not change.
The Chitimukulu said child marriages in villages have been thriving on ignorance of the law and benefits of educating girl children.
“Some people don’t even know that there is defilement, all they know is that if a girl reaches puberty, she has to marry even if she is 14 years old,” he said.
Paramount Chief Chitimukulu implored Government to make education facilities more accessible, especially in rural areas.
He said although communities may positively affirm girls’ education, it is difficult to stop children from marrying when there are no schools in the vicinity.

Daily Mail –  EMELDA MWITWA, Lusaka