CHILD marriage, like human trafficking, is indeed a form of modern slavery and institutionalised defilement.
One of the least mentioned issues about this scourge is that early marriage inflicts life-long trauma on the victim who is robbed of her childhood, education and planned parenthood to find herself in a situation in which she is marginalised for life.
We totally agree with Samuel Mutambo, the young Child labour ambassador, that Government and society at large must do more to address the psychological impact of this inhumane practice which has robbed communities of some of their best potential.
These are young women who should have perhaps excelled in school, sports and other aspects of human endeavor but usually end up on the human rubbish heap of poverty, ignorance and vulnerability after being forced to lose their virginity, bear unwanted children and end up locked up in marriage prisons.
The worst part of this horror is that most of these child marriages are sanctioned by parents. Some of them are driven by poverty and greed anchored on the belief that by giving a young daughter in marriage they may receive three herds of cattle, 10 goats and K3,000 in dowry.
Ironically but tragically, to some of these parents this is ‘‘wealth’’ which they need to educate the unfortunate girl’s brothers so that they complete school – at her expense. As fate would have it, sometimes the girl was the brightest among her siblings and she is the one being sacrificed because she was, for no choice of hers, born a girl.
To many of these parents, they are unaware that they are depriving their child of education and an opportunity for her to become anything she aspired to be. Now in her marriage, she is likely to be a victim of sexual abuse, exploitation, domestic violence and perhaps early death in childbirth.
Samuel Mutambo could not have put it better: ‘‘We are talking about a girl whose first sexual encounter is with a stranger, getting naked with somebody who is much older and being raped. When they give birth, their children tend to be less healthy. If it is a girl they grow up to become child brides themselves, perpetuating the cycle of abuse and poverty.’’
We wish to congratulate the networks of support and awareness about child marriage and its cost to Zambia’s gender advancement. These are men and women who give their time, resources and sacrifice to a cause of humanity. It is a war we cannot afford to lose.
Zambia looks forward to a future where every girl child will be born free of prejudice, parental abuse and gender discrimination. Every child regardless of their sex must be given an opportunity to go as far as their talents can allow. Forcing a 13 or 14-year-old girl into marriage is evil and a crime.
A country’s level of civilisation is judged on the basis of its human rights. Zambia may achieve high levels of material prosperity but as long as it has skeletons in its wardrobe such as child marriage, defilement, GBV and child labour, she cannot be said to have developed.
When we outlaw child marriage and succeed to end the vice we not only break the vicious cycle of poverty, ignorance and abuse. We fulfill our aspiration as a nation that every Zambian child shall be allowed to exceed their expectations without let or hindrance.
This is the best way to pursue justice and equity with integrity.