Malawi adolescent girls to petition Pres. Banda to act on marriage age

A group of adolescent girls will on June 27th, 2013 petition the President of the Republic of Malawi Joyce Banda on issues affecting them that includes child marriage age and safe motherhood.

The girls led by two organizations namely Centre For Children’s Affairs Malawi and Girls Empowerment Network will present their concerns at a function which will take place in Lilongwe at Cross Roads Hotel.

According to the Executive Director of Centre for Children’s Affairs Malawi, Moses Devlin Busher the conference is expected to bring over 100 girls from different districts who will meet the Minister of Gender Anita Kalinde.

“Among other things the conference is expected to highlight the crucial issues of marriage age bill that has accumulated the silence of the policy makers in Malawi Busher, Who is also a Child and Youth Rights Activist emphasized the need to have the girls speak for themselves the issues that are affecting their well-being in the absence of the laws protecting them from Early and Forced marriages.”

Moses Busher
Moses Busher

Busher referred the Constitution of Malawi in particular Section 22(4) which provides that “no person shall be forced to enter into marriage.” This suggests that most traditions that are currently practiced in Malawi, including betrothal of young girls fall foul of this provision.

He also said Section 22(6) fortifies the right to marry and found a family by stating that “no person over the age of 18 years shall be prevented from entering into marriage.”

However, the most controversial provision in Section 22 is subsection (7) thereof that allows persons between the age of fifteen and eighteen years to get married so long as they obtain consent from their parents and guardians.

He said this provision allows people who are too young to get married and exposes children; this is a loophole for the rampant early marriages in Malawi.

“There are a number of complications as a result of early marriages to girls than boys, how can we achieve the objective of the presidential initiative on safe motherhood if we allow our girls to marry at 12,13,14,15,and 16?

“We acknowledge the efforts being done by the ministry of Gender as they are still working on pushing for the approval of the marriage age bill, but our question is for how long does it take to revise a single prevision? We understand is going through the required legal processes but it’s becoming too heavy to wait while the situation is not waiting on the ground for the passing, the bill was just sent back to the law commission to revise the 16 years to 18 years, but now four years?” said Busher.

Busher concurred with what the Principal Secretary for Gender Dr. Mary Shawa said in Liwonde during the chiefs and children conference that her Ministry Sent a letter to the president appealing her for the enactment of laws that prohibit all forms of marriage for a person under the age of 18 as a progress but it is taking time things are
getting worse in the rural areas.

The conference was expected to produce an open letter from the girls that will be presented to the Head of State through the Minister to act on their concerns just as a reminder for the letter that was submitted already by the Ministry of Gender.

The conference which was conducted for a day was  supported by the Urgent Action Fund and  marked  the launching of the nationwide campaign for “Girls not wives” that will see the clergy taking a thicker step and the chiefs work seriously on the cultural issues affecting girl child.

The campaign will work closely with the Presidential Initiative on Safe motherhood.

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