Genet decries inconsistent laws


The Girls Empowerment Network (Genet) has said there is a lapse in the fight against early marriages in the country due to the inconsistencies of the legal instruments guiding the initiative and persistent harmful cultural practices in the communities.

Programme Manager Tamara Mhango said in the area of Chief Mtwalo in Mzimba over the weekend, during the winding up of the 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV), that despite enormous efforts from government and other stakeholders, the progress on protecting the girl child still remains minimal because of an oversight on a number of crucial elements.

Mhango cited the inconsistency between the Marriage, Divorce and Relations Act and The Constitution of the Republic on Marriage age as very detrimental to the cause.


While the newly amended act provides that the legal marriage age is 18, Section 22 of the constitution says a child may marry at 15 or 16 with parental consent.

“Just like many other organisations, we at Genet are equally concerned that our law makers have left the two legal documents operate in conflict to each other when actually they are supposed to be complementary, this is a very awkward disparity which need to be corrected,” said Mhango.

“There are times in the course of our work that we meet cases where 16 year olds have been married off by parents and our interventions to withdraw them are challenged because the concerned parents use the law to confront us, to an extent of questioning on what is superior than the other between the Constitution and the act, so you can see that a country we are legally sitting on ticking bomb.”


Mhango also bemoaned the continued existence of harmful cultural practices which expose young girls to older men who force them into premarital sexual activities and early marriages.

Said Mhango: “There are some deep rooted cultural routines among communities which continue to propagate GBV through early marriages, for instance here in Mzimba polygamy is not unusual and unfortunately young girls are mostly the targets.”

She further disclosed that for the past year in Mzimba alone, her organisation managed to withdraw over 30 young girls from marriages but due to financial constraints they are unable to offer necessary support to keep them in school.

Reacting to the legal disparities on marriage age to Times Television recently, law expert Edge Kanyongolo questioned the decision by the august House to pass the Marriage, Divorce and Relations Act without making any effort to tamper with the constitution.

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