Constitutional Court judgement on child marriages.
The two applicants are young women aged 19 and 18 years respectively. They have approached this Court in terms of s 85(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) 2013 (“the Constitution”) which came into force on 22 May 2013. They complain about the infringement of the fundamental rights of girl children subjected to early marriages and seek a declaratory order in the terms that:
“1. The effect of s 78(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) 2013 is to set 18 years as the minimum age of marriage in Zimbabwe.
2. No person, male or female in Zimbabwe may enter into any marriage including an unregistered customary law union or any other union including one arising out of religion or a religious rite before attaining the age of eighteen (18).
3. Section 22(1) of the Marriage Act [Chapter 5:11] is unconstitutional.
4. The Customary Marriages Act [Chapter 5:07] is unconstitutional in that it does not provide for a minimum age limit of eighteen (18) years in respect of any marriage contracted under the same.
5. The respondents pay costs of suit.”
The application arose out of the interpretation and application by the applicants, on legal advice, of s 78(1) as read with s 81(1) of the Constitution. Section 78(1) of the Constitution is one of the provisions in Chapter 4 which enshrine fundamental human rights and freedoms.