Child marriage is a human rights violation. Despite laws against it, the practice remains widespread, in part because of persistent poverty and gender inequality. In Nsanje and many parts of Malawi, one in every three girls is married before reaching age 18. One in nine is married under age 15.
Nsanje’s Kuchene Women Forum has warned traditional leaders that the current Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act will not spare anyone encouraging early marriages in the district.
Speaking during a sensitization meeting on Sunday 29 August, the Forum’s Director Gertrude Kalosi said time has come for the traditional leaders to take a leading role by ensuring that communities are able to understand what is in the new legislation to avoid being embarrassed.
She noted that most duty bearers hardly know what is contained in the act and girls under the age of 18 are still getting married.
“It has been discovered that duty bearers are still ignorant of the act in the District as evidenced by the number of young women less than 18 years getting married. This is the reason why this women’s forum is fighting for women rights by conducting these sensitization meetings with some of the duty bearers such as traditional authorities so that they know what is in the current act,” said Kalosi.
“We want them to know that if they accept under 18 children to marry in their respective areas, we will facilitate their arrests because this is against the law. We want them to be ambassadors of change in their respective areas,” she added.
Kalosi also explained that Kuchene Women Forum understands that for Malawi to develop, stakeholders need to realize the importance of safeguarding women considering that they form a larger percentage of the country’s population.
Commenting on the matter, Senior Group Village Head (SGVH) Kanyama, in the area of Chief Ngabu said the sensitization has been an eye opener as they hardly knew what was contained in the act.
“Let me confess here that we did not know what is in the so called Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act and I am also sure that many other traditional leaders out there are ignorant about the information that some of us have been privileged to receive today,” He said.
He pointed out that before the meeting, he was not aware that marrying an under 18 year old girl was tantamount to defilement and the person involved was guilty under the laws of Malawi.