More needs to be done to address child marriages – Centre for Child Law

2018-07-09 20:41
(Supplied)

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The Centre for Child Law has called on government to take action and bring about legislative change to prevent child marriages after Parliament heard last week that there were almost 100 000 married children.

The centre's deputy director, Karabo Ozah, said failure to take action or bring legislative change to completion was contrary to the laws in the country's Constitution and international human rights instruments South Africa is party to.

"Legislative reform is but one step towards protecting girl children from child marriages," Ozah said.

She said the centre was of the view that gaps in current legislation, which has different ages of marriage for boys and girls – with that of girls set lower, needed to be addressed through processes that are supported by community engagement.

She added that it was important to educate communities about the harmful effects of child marriage.

News24 reported last week that the Commission for Gender Equality told the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Social Development that almost 100 000 children in South Africa were married.

Concern over increase in child marriages

In some instances, mothers along with uncles or other relatives of the 91 000 children had agreed on dowries for children as young as 14 years old, the commission's chairperson Lulama Nare told Parliament.

Legally, for marriages in which one of the partners is younger than 18, written consent is necessary to obtain a marriage certificate from the Department of Home Affairs.

Ozah said the centre was concerned about the findings in the commission's report to Parliament.

"The centre is extremely concerned about the increasing incidence of child marriage in the country and the impact that this has on children and children's rights," she said.

"Child marriage denies the rights of children and subjects them to a multitude of abuses.

"The married child is often prevented from returning to school due to the commonly held view that schooling interferes with the child's duty as a 'wife'."

Ozah added that child marriages are likely to cause life-long trauma to the children, especially when they are removed from their families and required to perform "a wife's duties".

Read more on:    education  |  child abuse  |  gender based violence
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