The shame that we are
The social media has, for a larger part of this week, been awash with stories about a 12-year-old girl who gave birth early last month in Machinga District.
Children, being who they are, are not supposed to give birth because of several reasons. They are often not physiologically and emotionally ready to handle such responsibilities which come with and after childbirth.
Mdzukulu, some cases of fistula which affect our women, have been attributed to early pregnancies. That is why stakeholders—those who really care—keep fighting that girls or women should only give birth when they are mature enough.
In fact, we have the Marriage Age law which prohibits marriage before one’s 18th birthday. By extension, the law tells us that children should not fall pregnant before they turn 18.
But the case of the Machinga girl, who is not even yet a teenager, tells us about how backward we are as a people.
Mdzukulu, it appears all the laws that we have in place to protect children are not making sense to some individuals.
Parents or guardians have the major responsibility of protecting their children and must ensure that the children are not exposed to elements that have the possibility of ruining their lives.
The community where any child lives also has the responsibility of caring for the child. That is why, in our culture, we say raising a child is a whole village’s responsibility.
But, Mdzukulu, what is happening now is shameful.
Apart from cases where underage girls are giving birth to children, there are others where such girls are being married off or being allowed to get married by their parents and guardians.
Of course, there are some traditional leaders who are striving to annul child marriages or stop them from starting off altogether.
But the reality on the ground is that the battle is far from being won. Under the cover of darkness, children are getting or being forced to get into unions they understanding nothing about.
In the end, they are robbed of their childhoods and permanently live with scars of such loss.
Mdzukulu, in fact the case of the Machinga girl could just be a tip of the iceberg. There might be several other underage girls who are giving birth, particularly in rural areas and we know or hear nothing about them.
We must be ashamed as a people that young children are getting pregnant, bearing children and getting married as we watch.
We must hang our heads in shame that we have relevant laws designed to protect children from any form of abuse or harm but the same evil things continue happening.
When these laws came into effect, we earned praise globally because it was envisioned that steps towards ultimate protection of children had set off.
What is happening currently tells the opposite.
Why do we really fail to utilise impressive pieces of legislation which we design ourselves to respond to some crises?
Why is it that everything in this country seems to be failing? Who cursed us?