Cultural Practices

The rights abuses associated with child marriage in Zimbabwe are deeply rooted in traditional cultural practices which are still carried out in many parts of the country. Though urbanization, migration, and industrialization have taken over as social orders of Zimbabwean society, some individuals, families and communities have maintained an extended ‘localiteness or ‘parochial mindedness’ in their lives and have clinged to primitive practices that are inhumane, indefinite and above all a gross violation of human rights principles, all in the name of culture. Traditional prejudiced practices have combined to institutionalize and standardize the gender-based abuses of women and girls, and the violation of women’s rights. Sadly, a culture of silence against such abuses has also become the norm, particularly among the abused women and girls.

Shona Practices

Chigadzamapfihwa /Chimutsamapfihwa (replacement of a deceased wife):  After a female relative has passed on, her young sister is given to her husband to help him look after the family and also as a token of appreciation for living well with the deceased wife. The chimutsamapfihwa’s other role is to ensure that she continues her sisters’ roles and responsibility in the family. Despite the age of the husband and the potential for sexually transmitted diseases between the husband and the new wife, the young woman or girl is pushed into this situation.

Kuzvarira (pledging): A typical poor family will negotiate with a rich family to give them a girl child. This will take place before the child is even born. After her birth, she will then stay with her family until she is mature enough to go and live with her promised husband.

Kuripira ngodzi (appeasing the dead):  A scenario where the family of a girl might marry her off to deal with problems, for example to pay ngozi (an avenging spirit of someone murdered by the girl’s family member/ external family member). If a chief would have ruled out that case and the girl’s family could not afford the number of cattle needed, he will trade his girl child.

Musengabere: A man identifies the girl he likes and wants to be his wife. He studies her movement patterns, typically in situations when she is unaware like when she is collecting firewood or fetching water. The man will pick her up and run as fast as he can before the family of the girl notices her absence and searches for her or sends her brothers to beat the man up. Upon arrival to his home, the man will send word to the girls family that she was with him and he would like to marry her. The girl will be encouraged to accept him and roora (bride price) proceedings will begin.

Kutema ugariri: This marriage occurs when a man cannot afford to pay lobola (bride price) in the acceptable ways such as in cows or hoes (nowadays cows and money). So instead, he would offer his labor services for an agreed time frame to work at his would be in-laws’ house, mostly in the fields. At the end of the time-frame, the man will claim his bride and start a family with her.

Religious Practices

Religious norms have become another factor that has negatively affected women and girls in Zimbabwe. For instance, in the apostolic sect, members of the indigenous apostolic church reportedly encourage girls as young as ten to marry much older men for “spiritual guidance”. Men in the church are reportedly entitled to marry girls in order to shield them from premarital sex.

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