Zimbabwe’s highest court outlawed marriage for any person under the age of 18 on Wednesday. The decision is a victory for gender equality and anti-poverty efforts.
The nation’s Constitutional Court made this ruling in a case brought by two women who were forced into child marriages. Both claim the early marriage restricted their access to education and sentenced them to a life of poverty.
Zimbabwe currently has a high rate of child marriage, with some estimates saying 21% of children are married before their 18th birthday. The majority of those children are girls.
Across the African continent there are an estimated 14 million under-age girls married each year.
Child marriage is a major obstacle to the development of girls and eventually communities. These early marriages often keep girls out of school and the workforce and, therefore, reliant on their husbands. The scourge of child and early forced marriages (known by policy makers as CEFM) has kept millions and millions of people in poverty.
The victory in Zimbabwe is a big step towards creating gender equality and ending extreme poverty, and is hopefully a sign that African nations are taking this issue more seriously. The African Union held its first major summit on the issue last year, calling for nations to enact and enforce laws protecting children.
This is an especially important call in the wake of UNICEF predicting that without a change in laws and enforcement, child marriages on the continent will double by 2050.
You can urge leaders to follow through on the promises to end child marriage and support gender equality for girls around the world in TAKE ACTION NOW.