Over the past few years, Botswana has seen a disturbing increase in child marriages whereby children are married at a young age and find themselves in situations that undermine their childhood development. However this tide turned recently when the SADC regional parliament enacted a new model law to end child marriages.
The 39th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum finally adopted and enforced a new model of anti-child marriage law. The Plenary Assembly Session is the highest decision-making body of SADC PF – the deliberative body that brings together 14 national parliaments of Southern Africa.
Following the adoption of the model law, many organisations and politicians have sent congratulatory messages. Amongst them is Gaborone Bonnington North MP and Umbrella for Democratic Change President Duma Boko who says adoption of the law is a very important step and expresses ideals.
“The next is to have all SADC countries incorporate, enact or promulgate the provisions of this model law into their domestic legal frameworks. It is only at that point that we will begin to celebrate because that would provide a concrete measure of whether the goals enunciated in the model law are being realised in practice. That would be the ideal time to pop the champagne and celebrate.”
The SADC Secretariat says the SADC PF MPs have taken a “step in the right direction” and says the model law is consistent with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development which prohibits marriage of anyone below 18 years of age.
In 2014 Letlhakeng District alone, recorded 36 cases of teenage pregnancy affecting girls under the age of 12 years. Although the Botswana Marriage Act of 2001, indicate 18 years as the legal age for marriage; BONELA has so far recorded 3 cases of Batswana girls aged between 10-18 years who have been married off by their parents. All the 3 cases are from the Bazezuru tribe.