By Patrick Chitumba
A woman (44) has been jailed for five months for forcing her daughter (15) into marriage on grounds that she wanted someone to look after the minor.
A Shurugwi magistrate also sent the man (40) who had married the Form Two girl to jail for 24 months in probably the first convictions for marrying off or marrying a minor since the Constitutional Court banned child marriage in January last year.
The Shurugwi court heard that the man had sex with the girl for the first time while her mother, whose identity has been withdrawn to protect the identity of the minor, stood guard at the door of his bedroom hut.
The illegal marriage lasted for one night as the girl’s grandmother reported the matter to the police.
First to appear before Shurugwi resident magistrate Mrs Evia Matura facing one count of pledging her underage daughter into marriage was the mother.
She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five months in prison.
The woman told the court in mitigation that she gave her daughter into marriage for free because she thought she was dying since she is anaemic.
She said she wanted someone to look after her daughter before her death.
“I’m of ill health. I’ve continuous headaches and so I thought I would die and my child would have no one to look after her. When he married her, she was in school and had promised to further her education,” she said.
Prosecutor, Ms Nyengeterai Nechirava said on January 12 the woman forced her daughter to enter into marriage with Jelias Nyika but she refused.
“That same night at around 10PM, she packed the complainant’s clothes and took her to Nyika’s homestead before he had sexual intercourse with her that very night while she stood guard at the bedroom hut door,” she said.
The court heard that on January 13, the complainant’s grandmother reported the accused person to the police, leading to her arrest. Second to appear in court was Nyika who was sentenced by Mrs Matura to 24 months in prison for having sex with a minor.
Nyika had pleaded guilty to the charge. He will however serve an effective 18 months in prison after six months of his sentence were suspended on condition of good behaviour.
The prosecutor said on January 12 at around midnight, the woman handed her daughter to Nyika.
“After Nyika was given the complainant by her mother as his wife, he took her to his bedroom and had sexual intercourse with her while her mother was standing outside after which she proceeded to her homestead.
“Nyika was arrested after a report was made to the police by the complainant’s grandmother,” she said.
In a landmark ruling last year, the top court struck off the statutes Section 22(1) of the Marriages Act, which permitted children under the age of 18 years to formally get married.
It ruled that Section 22(1) of the Act was inconsistent with Section 78(1) of the Constitution, which sets 18 years as the minimum age of marriage in the country.
The ruling was made following an application filed by two Harare women challenging the Customary Marriages Act.The Chronicle