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Zimbabwe court outlaws early marriage

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TVC NEWS ( ZIMBABWE ): Diplomats and activists on Wednesday welcomed news that Zimbabwe’s highest court had banned marriage for all under 18s in a landmark ruling many hope will be followed by other countries in Africa.

The ruling was delivered Wednesday morning unanimously by all nine judges in Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court – but it took a year for it to be delivered.

The new minimum age applies to both males and females.

“Good news! great victory for the girls & people of #Zimbabwe #EndChildMarriage,” tweeted @UNZimbabwe.

British ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing is happy about the ruling and so he went on his social page to tweet: “#Zim courts give #ZimGirls a chance at life by saying #NoToChildMarriage #KeepHerSafe”.

The case was brought by legal watchdog Veritas, and argued by former finance minister Tendai Biti, who is a lawyer. They wanted existing laws which either did not set a minimum age for marriage or allowed it from the age of 16 to be declared unconstitutional in the light of Zimbabwe’s new charter, which was adopted at a referendum in 2013. The Constitutional Court did just that.

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Child marriage is a significant problem in Zimbabwe, fuelled, say activists, by some popular Apostolic Christian sects which allow marriage of a much younger girl to an older man. Rights groups say about 21 percent of Zimbabwe’s children, mostly girls, are married before the age of 18.

A man holds a girl as she tries to escape when she realized she is to to be married

Said Veritas in a statement, “This progressive decision is a mark that the Zimbabwe Constitutional Court is building up a body of constitutional jurisprudence which will also be quoted in other jurisdictions and should assist the Africa-wide campaign against child marriage.”

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