Outrage Over the Death of a 14 Year Old Girl Whilst Giving Birth at the Johanne Marange Church Shrine in Mutare

It is a shared responsibility to protect the Girl Child!’ Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCOZ), a non-partisan national network of women’s rights organisations and activists striving for the rights of women and girls, expresses its outrage over the reported death of 14 year old girl who has been identified as Memory Machaya, who died whilst giving birth at a church shrine (which has been named as the Johanne Marange Church shrine) in Bocha, Mutare. According to reports, Memory Machaya, who had been forced out of school and into marriage at age 13, died on July 15 and was secretly buried two hours later by the church.

We, as mothers and sisters are angry that this happened in a country that has established laws on rape and on child abuse yet the focus of this issue has been on this minor’s pregnancy and not the gross inhuman violation of her body and her person. The rapist and the accomplices who took this child and stayed with her during this whole ordeal remain officially unnamed, anonymous and protected to the disadvantage of Memory getting justice. This is in cognisance of the fact that section 70 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23] provides that any person who has sexual intercourse with a person below the age of 16 years, with or without their consent is guilty of a criminal offence. Therefore, what has been sanitised in this regard as a ‘child marriage’ is in fact rape and child abuse and the perpetrator must face the full wrath of the law.

Remaining silent on this matter is not only failing Memory Machaya, but also sets precedence for future perpetrators to continuously violate the girl child and get away with it. Remaining silent on this matter means that we have failed as a nation to appreciate the principle of ‘best interests of the child’ that our Constitution and the Convention on the Rights of the Child envision for all children in Zimbabwe. Lest we forget, we as a nation committed to recognising the fundamental human dignity of all children and the urgency of ensuring their well-being and development and this makes it clear that a basic quality of life should be the right of all children. rather than a privilege enjoyed by a few.

What we have witnessed in Memory’s case is a horrific practice and we therefore strongly call upon:

The Zimbabwe Republic Police to conduct serious investigations into this matter and arrest the perpetrators and accomplices. The Zimbabwe Republic Police must enforce the law without fear, favour or prejudice.
The traditional leadership, community, media, the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development and the Chapter 12 institutions, particularly the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to work with the Zimbabwe Republic Police through investigations to bring justice to Memory’s case and expose many others that have gone unreported.
The Parliament of Zimbabwe to pass the Marriages Bill, 2019 into law as a matter of urgency so as to align marriage laws to sections 78 and 81 of the Constitution which provide that anyone below the age of 18 years is a child and that marriage with children below the ages of 18 is prohibited. Section 81 of the Constitution reiterates that the interests of the child are paramount in every matter concerning the child.

We will not tire to continuously fight for the rights of women and girls and call for justice for our daughters!

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe

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