Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Law Commission backs marriage age at 16

By Mike Chipalasa

The majority of Malawians in rural areas are comfortable with a proposal allowing children to marry below the age of 16 with consent from their parents, the Malawi Law Commission (MLC) has said.

MLC assistant chief law reform officer, Chizaso Nyirongo told a Parliamentary Legal Affairs committee meeting in Lilongwe on Tuesday that rural parents had no qualms with the new marriage age.

Nyirongo was answering a question from the committee’s chairperson, Henry Phoya, who wanted to know what preceded the discussion on marriage age, in view of the recent public outcry on the matter.

“Was the public involved in coming up with the 16 years age, it seems the public has been bombarded with this issue,” asked Phoya, former Justice Minister.

However, Nyirongo defended the age, arguing research results the law body conducted in 1998 (under the leadership of Bakili Muluzi) showed people in rural areas bought the proposal while urban dwellers had misgivings, a move which forced the law body to strike balance at 16.

He revealed rural people said their children were comfortable marrying even below 14 years, saying it was only the urban populace that wanted 18 years, “because they were knowledgeable of the international definition of the child being below 18.”

“The Malawi Law Commission consulted both urban and rural people. The view that 15 years was okay prevailed while the urban people said 18. To strike a balance, we came up with 16, because it is not near 14 and not near 18,” he said.

Section 23 (5) of the Constitution states: “For purposes of this section, children shall be persons under sixteen years age.”

Observed Nyirongo: “Our research showed that 16 years seems to be universal age of marriage, even in countries which ratified conventions of children being below 18.”

However, child rights bodies have condemned parliament’s decision to enact the proposal, arguing it would infringe on the girl child’s right to education.

Their worries were recently supported by both Health Minister Professor Moses Chirambo and his deputy Theresa Mwale, who condemned the move.

President Ngwazi Dr Bingu wa Mutharika has since promised more consultations on the matter- The Daily Times, Wednesday, August 26, 2009.

1 comment:

  1. if those backing 16 years were married when they were sixteen could they have been saying this today?Mr President may you say NO to 16 years plz.