...gender activist Kaliya hails amendment
Members of Parliament (MPs) on Tuesday approved an amendment to the constitution to outlaw child marriage.
The new approved bill will make all marriages of couples aged below 18 to be illegal, effectively ending child marriage.
Malawian Parliamentarians voted 131 to 2 in favour of removing a legal loophole which allowed children between 15 and 18 to marry with parental consent.
Minister of Justice Samuel Tembenu said Malawi was stuck in making progress on promotion of some children’s rights due to lack of the recommended age of marriage.
Nkhatabay central legislator Ralph Mhone disclosed that the bill will clear mist surrounding the age of marriage, as some documents approved 16 years while others put 14 years to be recommended age.
Speaking in an interview with Malawi24 on Wednesday morning, gender activist Emma Kaliya applauded the development saying the country is to make strides on promotion of children’s rights.
“That’s what we have been expecting that our MPs are to do for us in Parliament, this will take away all the challenges that rocked promotion of children especially girls who have been victims of lack of recommended age for marriage,” said Kaliya.
She further expressed worry on lack of National Identity cards arguing that some parents cheat on the age of their children to force them into marriage while young.
“The IDs can help to deal with a concern that many parents cheat that their children are aged so that they can get married as they wish,” she added.
Malawi has been experiencing teen marriages due to lack of recommended age set by authorities to reduce the trend of children getting married.
As of 2015, Malawi had the ninth highest rate of child marriage in the world. The practice is technically already prohibited by law in Malawi, having been banned in 2015 with the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act which increased the minimum age of marriage from 15 to 18.
But in spite of this important step, the Constitution contained a legal loophole that still allowed children between 15 and 18 to marry with parental consent.
The historic amendment to the constitution to fully outlaw child marriage follows years of campaigning by youth groups and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the country
One of the young people who had led the campaign Memory Banda, 20, said that they have worked with the government to help end child marriage – once and for all.
“When my little sister was just eleven, she was forced to marry the man who got her pregnant. At the time, I was young, and thought this was normal. But I quickly realised the devastating impact it had on her when she was further abused in marriage.
“When she came home, I saw the person who had been my little sister wasn’t my little sister anymore. Now, together with a team of young campaigners supported by Plan International, we’ve worked with the government to amend the constitution of our country to help end child marriage – once and for all,” Banda said.
Reacting to the law amendment Lilly Omondi, Country Director for Plan International Malawi has commended the move.
“This s is a momentous change for future generations of Malawi – and we are so pleased that young people have played a huge part in this success. By ensuring that they have had their voices heard, these young people have helped to secure the health and happiness of millions of Malawian girls to come,” she said.
Additional reporting by Bright Malenga