By Samuel Kalimira
Police in Mzuzu have arrested a 43-year-old businessman for marrying a 13-year-old girl in Kasasire area in Traditional Authority Mtwalo in Mzimba.
The arrest comes barely three weeks after the man married the child. Mzuzu Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Paul Tembo identified the suspect as Ernest Chione from Mlangeni Village, but he conducts his business at Kasasire Trading Centre.
Tembo said the arrest came after the community complained about the matter which also went viral on social media. He said the police rushed to the area and withdrew the girl and later arrested the suspect who, according to Tembo, will appear before court soon to answer defilement charges.
“Our investigations show that the suspect had some marital issues with his wife. His wife left him sometime back and the suspect decided to marry this girl, who he has stayed with for three weeks,” Tembo said.
And a child welfare organisation, Foundation for Children’s Rights (FCR), has commended the police for the swift action.
Executive Director for the organisation Janipher Mkandawire said they now expect the law to take its course.
Mkandawire said it is sad that while government is formulating policies that aim at protecting girl children, some people are undermining government efforts in fighting abuses against the children.
“We are going to wait and see how the matter will be handled; otherwise, we will not be happy to see the suspect granted bail because this is a serious offence. We will also wish that justice on this matter is known; otherwise, our children cannot continue facing such abuses,” Mkandawire said.
According to Unicef, child marriages is a serious problem in Malawi. It says while the Constitutional amendment in 2017 raising the child age to 18 was a milestone, child marriages still persist in the country. It says about 46 percent of girls in Malawi are married before the age of 18 and 9 percent before the age of 15.
According to Unicef, the main driver of child marriages in Malawi include poverty, cultural and religious beliefs and peer pressure.