CENTRAL Province child development coordinator Allan Jere says Zambia has one of the highest rates of early child marriages in the world with 42 percent of women aged between 20 and 24 married at 18 since 2002.
“Globally, 720 million people living today were married before their 18th birthday. Zambia has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world with 42 percent of women aged between 20 and 24 married at the age of 18 years – a rate which has not changed since 2002,” Mr. Jere said.
He was speaking during the commemoration of this year’s day of the African child at Godfrey Chitalu stadium in Kabwe.
This year’s theme was being commemorated under the theme ‘Let children be children: End child marriages now!’.
Mr. Jere said child marriages denied a girl child of her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities and increases her risk of violence and abuse in marriage.
The day of the African child which falls on the 16th June every year was set aside in honour of the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa when a protest sparked by school children resulted in the public killing of the unarmed school children.
Meanwhile, Central Province deputy permanent secretary Ronald Sinyangwe who read a speech on behalf of provincial minister said that the Zambian Government was working tirelessly at improving child welfare.
Mr Sinyangwe said child marriages violate all fundamental principles of child rights under the African Charter on Children’s Rights, to which Zambia was a signatory.
Mr. Sinyangwe also stated that to mitigate child marriage, Government had formulated the national child policy (2006) and was also taking steps to put child marriage at the forefront of the regional and international agenda. He pointed out the first UN General Assembly resolution on child, early and forced marriage which was co-sponsored with Canada in 2013.
Mr Sinyangwe stated that Government was working out a proper and conducive legal framework that would discourage child marriages.
“The Penal Code has been repealed to give stiffer punishment to those who defile/rape girl children. The development of the Gender Based Violence Act no. 1 of 2011 to help curb all forms of violence against women and children which include child marriages are just afew of the interventions Government has worked on in legal reforms,” he said.