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Child marriages facilitators warned

Limpho Sello

THE government has warned parents and guardians who facilitate child marriages of prosecution amid efforts to nip the scourge in the bud.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Temeki Tšolo, made the warning on Friday as he launched a national campaign to end child marriages in the country.

Speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, Mr Tšolo appealed to parents to stop giving away their young children as a way of getting some money, as this was illegal.

Mr Tšolo said the government was strongly against child marriages and was committed to working with all partners to promote and protect the rights of all children, especially those that are vulnerable.

“To date the Kingdom of Lesotho has demonstrated its commitment to protecting vulnerable children and families through various legislative frameworks, programmes and structures that promote children’s wellbeing,” Mr Tsolo said.

He said the Child Protection and Welfare Act of 2011, sets out commitment of the nation to protect all children; including those in need of care and protection and those in conflict.

He said social ills and crimes relating to child abuse, neglect, marriage and sexual assault ranked high in Lesotho and the Southern Africa region.

“Children are presented with many challenges that reflect their misery and how they are abused on many societal fronts. A case in point are survivors of sexual assault, when you talk to them and look at them in the eyes, you can tell that already they are full of the knowledge of how the world, seemingly turned against them,” Mr Tsolo said.

He said although children are young human beings, they also have rights, which need to be protected.

The European Union Commission on Justice of 2011, states that: “Besides education, other important child rights are the right to be a child, to play and grow and to develop.”

“The right to be a child is quoted as one of the fundamental rights for young humans, it is to meet the primary source of human entitlement from which many other rights develop,” Mr Tšolo said.

He explained that another important calorie to the statement of the rights of the child as reflected in the United States Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified and adopted by Lesotho in 1989 says: Children are not allowed to vote, to marry, buy alcohol, to have sex and to engage in paid or unpaid employment.

“Unfortunately, the sad reality is that children’s rights are frequently violated in Lesotho,” Mr Tšolo said.

He said the effective implementation of the campaign will help to ensure the respect and protection of children’s rights.

“We expect this campaign to contribute tremendously towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other African Union (AU) commitments aiming to end violence against children, and in particular, child marriages in Lesotho.”

He appealed to all actors to increase collaboration for a multi-sectoral approach that will go deeper towards addressing the root causes of child marriages.

“We need not leave any person behind including the children we are targeting to protect. Combating child marriages is everyone’s business,” Mr Tšolo said.

Also speaking at the launch, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Nadi Albino said marriage is never in the interest of a child, adding that children should not be married off.

Dr Albino said the numbers of married children are staggering globally with the rates significantly high in the Sub-Saharan Africa, where around four in ten girls marry before the age of 18 years.

“The latest numbers show that across Africa, 125 million girls and women alive today were married before their 18th birthday. Not only is that number staggering but it will remain the same or worse if we do not triple our efforts in ending child marriages,” Dr Albino said.

Dr Albino said child marriage affects girls in far greater numbers than boys and with more intensity.

“Data on the number of boys affected by child marriage are limited, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions on its status and progress. Nevertheless, available data confirm that boys are far less likely than girls in the same region to marry before the age of 18 years,” Dr Albino said.

“In Africa, we learn that one in three young women were married or in union before they turned 18 years of age. In Lesotho the situation remains a cause for concern,” she said.

The Lesotho Demographic Health Survey (LDHS) 2014 show that a total 19 percent of women now aged 20 to 24, got married before they turned 18.

“In some cases, early marriages are viewed as a coping mechanism by families as they gain bride price and also “one less mouth to feed”, Dr Albino said.

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