Girl child abuse is a serious crime

Police arrest Memory Machaya’s husband, and Machaya family members

By Nancy Samuriwo, HourlyHits Reporter

POLICE in Mutare yesterday arrested the “husband” of 14-year-old girl Memory Machaya who died during child birth, while members of the Machaya family have also been arrested after they offered Memory’s younger sister to Momberume as “replacement wife”.

Evans Momberume is set to appear at the Mutare Magistrates Court on Thursday to answer to charges of having sexual intercourse or performing indecent acts with a young person which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Finding Memory’s burial site will now be a priority for police investigators. Earlier reports indicated that members of the Johane Marange Apostolic Church were not cooperating with investigators, and denied that Memory was buried inside the shrine as alleged by her mother.

Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni confirmed the arrested yesterday in Parliament, adding that detectives have also arrested the Machaya family after it offered anothee young girl to the Momberume as “replacement wife” for the late Memory.

“I am very happy to announce that the police have now arrested some of the culprits including the family that has already given another child for marriage,” Nyoni told Parliament in Harare yesterday during a Question and Answer session.

“Our Constitution is very clear that children under the age of 18 years, it is illegal for them to get married. My Ministry and the police are dealing with this scourge of child marriages, but I must admit that we haven’t done enough.”

On 15 July, 14-year-old Memory died giving birth at a Johane Marange Apostolic church shrine in the eastern region of Marange, near Mutare.

Machaya’s story has sparked a national outcry which campaigners hope could present a watershed moment in raising awareness of the harms of child marriage. While police say they have begun investigations, many are calling for greater transparency in the public interest.

Machaya’s death has been linked to the practices of Zimbabwe’s Apostolic Church, a sect that practices child marriage and often rejects the use of medicine and hospital treatment.

Zimbabwe has committed to end child, early and forced marriage by 2030. It also ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18.

But despite this, girls in Zimbabwe are not safe from the practice. Over a third of girls (34%) are married before the age of 18 in the country, and 5% are married before their 15th birthday.

Minister Nyoni said protection of the girl child must be everyone’s responsibility as child marriages were now a national scourge.

“We have put together the laws that affect the family, but apart from that, we have put a National Action Plan Against Child Marriage. That was launched in 2019 and that has been cascaded down to provinces, but I must admit that we have not done enough.

“Therefore, we are inviting this House that we make the Plan available to Members of Parliament so that we can help each other because this is a national problem in which all of us must work together to protect our girl children.”

While the drivers for child marriage are complex and vary across the country, it is believed that in Machaya’s case, she was married within the Apostolic Church which encourages girls as young as 10 to marry much older men for “spiritual guidance”.

Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death in girls aged 15-19.

The United Nations has also urged the Government of Zimbabwe to recognise child marriage as a crime and bring an end to the practice. □

READ ALSO:  BREAKING: Shock as police discover Memory Machaya is not REAL name

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