SADC MPs hail child Marriage Model Law

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Staff Writer

Parliamentarians and other stakeholders from Southern Africa have welcomed the draft SADC Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and protecting those already in Marriage, saying it is a giant step forward in a region working to promote the rights of women and girls.

In separate interviews, they spoke about their pride in being part of a regional process that is developing a law with so much commonality that it can be easily adapted or adopted by SADC Member States as they confront the phenomenon that has been widely condemned.

Huge common problem

OPTIMISTIC: Zimbabwean MP, Hon Innocent Gonese Zimbabwean Parliamentarian, Hon Innocent Gonese, says child marriage is "problematic" in the SADC region and it was about time the region united against it.

"It is something we all need to confront and coming up with a model law is going to give guidance to our respective countries," he says.

Gonese hails the SADC Parliamentary Forum for making the drafting of the model law an interactive process involving many stakeholders.

"As representatives of the people we come across child marriage. Enabling us to go through this draft clause by clause enables us to give our thoughts so that there is ownership in the whole process."

He says by the time that the Model is made available to respective National Parliaments, those who were involved in its development would be able to help "colleagues who were not part and parcel of the process to be aware of the law and what it seeks to achieve."

Gonese, a lawyer by profession, says while law was not a panacea, it was important in the achievement of set goals.

"Legislation is very important because we have to buttress education and sensitisation with some pieces of legislation which deal with given problems. I believe that once we have a model law and our respective countries enact appropriate legislation, that would go a long way towards reducing child marriages which are endemic in the region," he says.

Major breakthrough

CAUTIOUS: Botswana High Court Judge, Professor Dr Key Dingake Prominent High Court Judge, Professor Dr Key Dingake who has followed the development of the draft model law with keen interest describes it as "belated but also timely."

Says the Judge: "The fact that the SADC Region has now converged to address this problem is commendable."

Judge Dingake sat through many sessions at which stakeholders spent examining the draft model law.

"Everyone realises that child marriage must be stopped. That is a major breakthrough. There were sticky points related to details which reflect the dynamics in individual countries but that should not detain us. What is important is that we have agreed as a region to stop child marriage and we know the adverse consequences," he says.

Turning to the manner in which the model law was being developed, the Judge said he was happy with the "critical approach" and the exhaustive clause by clause scrutiny that was bound to cultivate ownership.

"Political ownership can only come from the people's representatives."

SADC Women Parliament

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