Child Marriages On the Increase In Malawi

By Mphatso Nkuonera

World Vision International (WVI)has bemoaned increasing cases of early marriages despite government putting a minimum age of eighteen years for a girl to be acceptably married.

The organisation’s National Director, Hazel Nyathi expressed the sentiments Tuesday at Waliranji Primary School ground in Mchinji.

About 429 girls got into early marriages between October, 2018 and September, 2019 in the district and only 39 marriages were successfully abolished.

“I can confirm that 24 girls have returned to school in T.A. Mavwere alone. Every month, about 35 girls are exploited sexually and get into early marriages while eight girls find their way into early marriage in a week.

“When Malawians start respecting their own laws and putting them into practice, the country will have a positive future.

“The current situation in the case of Mchinji District, which may represent other districts, is very worrying for the future of girls,” she said.

She added that it should be the responsibility of everyone starting from the household level to policy makers to ensure girls are bailed out of sexual exploitation and guard them against marrying early.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, guest of honour who is also Ambassador for WVI, Inkosi Kachindamoto of Dedza District said Malawi’s future will be hazy if the status quo continued.

Kachindamoto said to date (September), he had annulled 2549 child marriages in her jurisdiction empowered by the by- laws that were agreed by all local leaders, the clergy and law enforcers.

“What is happening in my area and here in Mchinji is a replica of what is on the ground across the country.

“We must join hands as a nation and come out of the cocoon to condemn and practically take to task all responsible people who, in any way, marry, take part or encourage marriages of the under aged girls.

“I would like to call upon all traditional authorities in the country to stand and rise against this dangerous vice,” said Kachindamoto.

He said among the causes of increased fistula such as lack of support to children and gender based violence, early marriage is a major contributing factor,” she said.

Community policing and Rural Police Units Officer, Commissioner Merlyne Yolamu said police will not spare any person found sexually abusing girls in the country.

She added that at national level, the law enforcers work in conjunction with community police which have rolled out sensitization campaigns on the threats of this vice.

Yunus Ntchemba, 17 of Kasala Village in Traditional Authority Mavwere in the district who returned to school after delivering said there is hail in early marriages.

“I suffered heavily. My husband could not support me with any money for the child and it was hard for him to bring food on the table since he was also a student.

“I am now doing my form four at Warilanji Community Day Secondary School. I appeal for school fees support which is a very big problem for me now.

“However, I vow not to get back into marriage until I realize my vision,” she said.

Damiyano Chigunda, 13, a pupil at Kankhande Primary School said boys are coaxed into sexual relationships through peer pressure.

“I have examples of some of my peers who stopped school because of admiring their friends who got married.

“One important thing I can mention is that boys are laughed off by their friends when they don’t have sexual relationships. But the result is bad because you end up marrying with no plans,” he said.

Religious leaders, local leaders, the business fraternity, pupils from various primary schools, Member of Parliament for Mchinji South Constituency and the community were among the many that thronged the ground.-MANA