Inside Zimbabwe’s ‘Markets for Virgins’

By the Editorial Board|
Now Daily Editorial|

The government must immediately institute extra-ordinary measures to put a grip on growing numbers of child marriages.
Private alliance partners and governments launched a campaign against child marriages in July 2014. This was after the World Bank concluded that forcing girls to marry often disrupted their education and condemned them to a life of poverty, characterised by sexual reproductive health problems. Shamefully, not enough research and operational funds were provided for Zimbabwean NGOs because the country’s leaders are under an international embargo for human rights violations, including abuse and brazen trafficking of women and girls. The country may not receive funds from donors and is virtually excluded from the formal international banking system. A
countrywide media blitz has resulted in some knowledge of the dangers of early marriage, and frenzied threats by community leaders, but no significant arrests or practical help for many child brides who have died, of hunger, complications during child-birth as well as other health problems or forced prostitution, leading to diseases.
The CIA’s latest report classifies Zimbabwe as a problem country in terms of human trafficking, mainly on commercial farms and in cross-border syndicates controlled by Zanu PF officials. In societies dominated by members of the Johane Marange apostolic sect, girls are married off young to pay debts and become domestic slaves.
The US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) summarises it thus: “Child marriages occur most often in patriarchal societies where parents and elders have a significant role in selecting spouses for their children and new brides are absorbed into their new families as domestic help. Girls are often married shortly after puberty to maximize their childbearing potential.
Many cultures place an emphasis on girls’ virginity, which is closely tied to a family’s honor. Parents may marry off a daughter at an early age to ensure that she marries as a virgin and to prevent out of wedlock births.”
There are immediate priorities, which include health services that include trauma treatment for women married off young.
CFR says: “Marriage forces girls into adulthood before they are emotionally or phsically mature, leading to a range of harmful effects that take their heaviest toll on the youngest brides. Girls’ physical and emotional health, education, and wage-earning prospects are all jeopardized when they marry as children, and they often get little or no support if they try to leave their unions.”
(c) 2014 Now Daily. All Rights Reserved.

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