June 16 focuses on child marriages

Coming around?: Early marriages of children are common among the Bazezuru sect
Coming around?: Early marriages of children are common among the Bazezuru sect

FRANCISTOWN: Over 15 million girls are reportedly exposed to child marriages around the world and an estimated 50,000 die in low and middle-income countries during labour, a United Nations report has shown ahead of today’s Day of the African Child commemorations.

According to the report, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 years, in developing countries.

Of the 16 million adolescent girls who give birth annually, about 90 percent are married.

The global theme for this year June 16 commemoration is “Twenty-five Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”.

Students, community leaders and members in Francistown last week held a panel discussion ahead of the day’s commemoration.

Former Customary Court president, Ludo Mosojane said no girl should be robbed of her childhood, education and health aspirations.

“Yet today millions of girls are denied their rights each year when they are married as child brides,” she said.

 The court president emphasised that child marriage is increasingly recognised as a violation of the rights of girls or boys for the reasons that marriage effectively ends their education and blocks any opportunity to gain vocational and life skills.

In addition, child marriages expose girls to the risk of early pregnancy, child bearing and motherhood before they are physically and psychologically ready.

Mosojane stressed that Botswana is a nation that is still deep rooted in culture and tolerates other cultures, including those which tolerate early marriages such as the Bazezuru.

“We hope that as time goes they will change on child marriage. For instance, they started off not going to the hospitals to get medical attention and slowly they are coming around,” she said.

Mosojane acknowledged that government’s efforts on poverty eradication had supported many parents and reduced the number of children living in the streets.

Kgosi Paul Motshwane of Gerald Estate Customary Court accused parents of selling their daughters off, arguing that families with low incomes agreed to allow their daughters to be married for gain.

He disagreed with those who claim that customary courts conduct child marriages, noting that in yesteryear, there was a practice known as ‘peo letlhokwa’ which allowed a girl to mature first before entering the marital institution.

“They were never forced into marriage, but what happens in some communities is that the decision is taken behind the poor girl’s back, which is very wrong.

As Dikgosi, we now discourage this as children’s rights are protected at all levels,” he said.

Head of Child Protection Services, Ookame Mokabathebe said the Department of Social Protection, was allocated P368 million by the government to find resources for vulnerable children.

Mokabathebe added that they have many policies in place to combat early child marriages which include peer-to-peer education and children’s participation in panel discussions.

For his part, Superintendent Thomas Letebele of Botswana Police said they were worried by unreported cases of defilement, incest and child marriages.

He said in most cases parents would rather take bribes from culprits instead of reporting the cases to the police. He encouraged children to report cases of abuse well in time.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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