The United Nations (UN), as well as women’s rights activists, has condemned the practice of child marriage in Zimbabwe after a 14-year-old girl died during childbirth at a church shrine.
The UN in Zimbabwe said in a statement on Aug. 7 that it “notes with deep concern and condemns strongly” the circumstances that led to the death of Memory Machaya from the eastern rural area of Marange.
According to local media, Machaya died last July 15 but the case surfaced only last week when her family told state media after being blocked by the Apostolic Church’s security from attending her burial.
The UN called on the Zimbabwean government to quickly adopt the Marriage Bill that recognizes child marriage as a crime and to intensify the roll out of a national plan to end child marriage.
According to the UN, one in three girls in Zimbabwe are likely to be married before reaching 18 years of age.
The Zimbabwean Republic Police and the Zimbabwean Gender Commission said in separate statements on Aug. 6 that they were investigating Machaya’s case.
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, the chief executive of Rozaria Memorial Trust which fights child marriage in rural areas, urged the government “to step up the investigations and arrest the perpetrator” of Machaya’s case.
“I also call on the government to investigate and document how we can end these sexual abuses that are happening within religious institutions. It is important for us to fight justice and ensure impunity,” Gumbonzvanda added.
An online petition calling for justice for Machaya has so far reached over 57,000 signatures, which includes that of opposition leader Linda Tsungirirai Masarira.
Machaya’s famil told local media that the baby survived the birth.
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