Amendment of the Marriage Bill Dubbed “Progressive”

The Marriage Bill of 2017 has been referred to as a progressive draft law as it seeks to abolish child marriages. Over the past weeks, the amendment of the bill fueled social media debates, stirring up a hornet’s nest among concerned citizens.

The Marriage Bill was discussed during a radio program that was conducted at Skyz Metro FM by Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD). Legal practitioners from Vundla-Phulu and Partners alongside Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) were present for the radio program with the intent of shedding light on the tenets of the Marriage Bill Amendment.

The legal practitioners defined a bill as a draft law that will come into effect once it is approved. The Marriage Bill is a consolidation of the Customary Marriages Act and the Civil Marriage Act, which carries with it positives and negatives.

“Members from the Apostolic Sect can now take up the role of marriage officers. This was prohibited in the previous Marriage Acts,” said Marygold Sibanda, a legal practitioner from Vundla – Phulu and Partners. “In the past, there were fewer marriage officers and the Amended Bill comes in to address this crisis.”

The Marriage Bill of 2017 eliminates possibilities of child marriages.

“The Marriage Act had loopholes because it gave room for child marriages,” said Jilian Mugova, a representative of Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA).

“Once the Marriage Bill is enacted as law, child marriages will stand as a thing of the past, and protect children’s rights.”

Mugova shared the process of bill amendments highlighting how a bill is crafted into law in Zimbabwe.

“It takes a while for a bill to be enacted into law,” said Mugova. “In order for a bill to be effected as law, the Zimbabwean Parliament has to go through a number of stages. It is first drafted and then has to be approved by the National Assembly.

“After the bill is read it is taken to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees who will share it with the public through a series of public hearings. This stage leads to a third and final reading which will determine if the bill qualifies to be enacted as law,” she added.

However, the Marriage Bill is not without contradictions. Civil partnerships are not defined as a marriage, although they are recognized by the court of law.

“Omasihlalisane or Civil Partners will now be legally recognised, and this comes with a number of effects,” said Mugova. “It allows a married person to cohabit, in as much as it was disallowed in the Civil Marriage and the marriage institution as a whole. A partner now has a claim over the property belonging to a married couple, which was never observed in Zimbabwe’s Marriage Acts.”

Mugova added that if passed as law, the courts will now consider the duration of the partnership, the nature of the partnership before passing a judgement with civil partnerships.

She said the court now has too much leeway to determine whether or not the Civil Partnership existed.

Source: Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD)