Child marriages in Zimbabwe and the failure by the State to fulfil its obligations to protect the rights of childrenPosted: 26 August, 2021
Author: Nqobani Nyathi
Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
Recently, there have been reports about a 14-year old child who died during childbirth. The reason why such a tragedy happened and may continue to happen is the State’s failure or unwillingness to eradicate child marriages. This article seeks to outline Zimbabwe’s legislative framework regarding child marriages and its obligations in terms of international law.
The legal position
Child marriage is illegal in Zimbabwe as held by Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court. In January 2016, the apex court rightly found that the legislative provisions legalising child marriages were inconsistent with the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The Constitution has fairly strong provisions promoting and protecting the rights of children, including the right to be protected from sexual exploitation or any form of abuse. The Court also observed that historically there has been a “lack of common social consciousness on the problems of girls who became victims of early marriages.”
The fact that child marriages had to be declared illegal through litigation exposes this lack of common social consciousness. Zimbabwe had been clinging to the archaic law legalising the marriage of children in terms of both the Marriage Act 81 of 1964 and the Customary Marriages Act 23 of 1950.
Infringement on democracy, human rights and the rule of law through constitutional amendments: What mechanisms exist to restore Zambia?Posted: 4 December, 2019
Author: Juliet Nyamao
Human Rights Attorney, Kenyan Bar
The first Constitution of the Republic of Zambia (1964) established a multiparty system of government. However, increasing tensions between the ruling party and the opposition parties compelled the first president of the Republic of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, to institutionalise a one-party rule through the enactment of the Constitution of Zambia Act, 1973. The presidential rule in Zambia was reinforced, with the president as the sole player on the political scene. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war in the early 1990s, a wave of multiparty democracy swept across the African continent leading to emergence of political pluralism. Many countries in the Southern African region adopted constitutional dispensations that allowed political pluralism and cemented the roles of the different branches of governments. Zambia, a former British colony, was no exception to the wind of change; they adopted their new Constitution of Zambia, 1991 that restored multiparty democracy. Thereafter, the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 spelt out the roles and mandates of the different branches of government and directed that all State organs and State institutions abide by and respect the sovereign will of the people of Zambia. This Constitution ensured separation of powers between the various branches of the government, which is crucial to uphold democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
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The impact of state surveillance and censorship of sexuality on the lives of LGB Ethiopians living in Addis AbabaPosted: 28 January, 2019
Author: Selamawit Tsegaye Lulseged
African Union Human Rights Observers Mission in Burundi (formerly)
Dialogue regarding same-sex sexual act and eroticism is a recent phenomenon in Ethiopia. As is true for most African countries, in Ethiopia, there is a strong heterosexual culture that bases its legitimacy on the hegemony of masculinity. The social construction is based on the values of family that depends on traditional gender role and religious dogmas. In many discourses, lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals are mentioned in relation to pedophilia, mental sickness and people who chose deviant sexual behavior. Thus, same-sex sexuality is not only something that is pushed under the rug, but also subjected to state scrutiny and embargo.
Author: Urias Teh Pour
Legal Advisor on the Liberia Law Society Land Rights and Freedom of Expression Projects
The recent move to repeal Liberia’s Criminal Libel laws by the newly elected Government of former Liberian Football legend, George Manneh Weah, has been hailed by human rights groups as a positive step in the right direction. The effort to decriminalise section 11.11 of the Penal Law comes barely two months following the visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to Liberia. The UN Officials called on the Government of Liberia to review all laws that undermine free speech, as guaranteed by article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other instruments ratified by Liberia.
What seemed unimaginable has happened. After an uninterrupted ‘reign’ of 37 years, Robert Mugabe, the de facto emperor of Zimbabwe, has ‘resigned’ from office. There has been genuine jubilation not least among those who have been at the receiving end of Mugabe’s increasingly despotic, corrupt and dysfunctional governance – the majority of Zimbabweans. Emmerson Mnangagwa has taken office as Mugabe’s successor. It is a historic moment. Since attaining independence in 1980, Zimbabweans have only known Mugabe as their political supremo – initially as prime minister and latterly as president. The fact of Mugabe’s departure from office, alone, has raised hopes that we might be at the cusp of a compassionate, fairer, humane and democratic Second Republic. At the same time, the clouds are pregnant with contradictions, counselling us not to throw caution aside even as we pine for change. Why is this?
Author: Daniel Marari
LLM, International Human Rights Law, Lund University, Sweden
Although the Tanzanian Constitution (1977) guarantees the right to equality and prohibits discrimination based on gender and sex, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people still face deeply rooted hostility, prejudice and widespread discrimination in the Tanzanian society. Threats of criminal penalty, social exclusion, harassment and violence make it particularly unsafe for one to come out as an LGBT person.
At present, certain homosexual acts between consenting adult males are criminalized under the Penal Code (Chapter 16 of the laws). Under section 154 of the Penal Code, committing or attempting to commit “unnatural offences” are crimes punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and twenty years’ imprisonment, respectively. “Unnatural offence” is defined as (1) sexual intercourse with any person “against the order of nature” as well as (2) consensual sexual intercourse between a man and man or woman “against the order of nature”. The words “against the order of nature” are not statutorily defined. Also, under section 157 of the Penal Code, it is an offence punishable with a maximum of five years imprisonment for any male person, whether in public or private, to commit an act of gross indecency with another male person. By section 3 of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act, “gross indecency” is defined as “any sexual act that is more than ordinary but falls short of actual intercourse and may include masturbation and indecent physical contact or indecent behavior without any physical contact”. Consent is no defense to any of these offences and no distinction regarding age is made in the text of the law. As the consequence of the existence of these laws criminalizing private consensual homosexual acts, LGBT people in Tanzania live in psychological stress and unceasing fear of prosecution and imprisonment.
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Author: Saul Leal
Vice-Chancellor Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA)
Leopold Sedar Senghor said: emotion is African. This emotion has been channeled to constitutions. Happiness is a core value in many African constitutions. It was explicitly mentioned in Liberia, Namibia, Ghana, Nigeria, Swaziland, and Egypt.
Article 1 of the Constitution of Liberia, 1986, proclaims that all free governments are instituted by the people’s authority, for their benefit, and they have the right to alter and reform it when their safety and ‘happiness’ require it. The preamble of the Egyptian Constitution, 2014, cites ‘a place of common happiness for its people’. The Namibian Constitution, 1990, assures the right ‘to the pursuit of happiness’. In this regard, Frederick Fourie defends the preamble of the Namibian Constitution, explaining that it is coloured by the struggle against colonialism and racism; that it is built around the denial of the ‘right of the individual life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ by colonialism, racism and apartheid.