Malawi Civil Society calls for uniformity in marriage age laws

 

The call comes after Chancellor College Associate Professor of Law Edge Kanyongolo declared the Marriage law on marriage age invalid saying the constitution’s disparity on exact age marriage will tend other misguided individuals to challenge any case on it before the court as the MDFR Act is inconsistence with the supreme law of the land.

Associate Professor Kanyongolo argued that inconsistency of the constitution with the Marriage Act on age after individuals successfully challenged it would put court in an awkward position by declaring the MDFR Act invalid which according to him will be disaster to the future of the country’s young girl’s education.

In an exclusive interview with The Maravi Post after presenting the UN CEDAW shadow report for Malawi 2015 to the media, Lusungu Dzimkambani Oxfam Malawi’s Active Citizenship Manager observed with concerns on inconsistency of the two laws saying such discrepancies remain a challenge to girls’ future.

“The CEDAW recognizes that discrimination against women continues to exist with unpalatable laws which are obstacle to women participation on equal terms with men in political, social, economic and cultural life of their countries including Malawi.

“Sixteen substantive article of the UN Convention identify the specific areas of discrimination that all parties to the protocol must have legal, administrative and other measures affirmative action, modification of social and cultural patterns of conduct and suppression of trafficking in women.

“In this regard, the country’s constitution remains a stumbling block on young girls’ protection to early marriage as it doesn’t speak one voice with the current Marriage law. Article 16 of the UN CEDAW on equality in Marriage and Family Law commended Malawi government for putting 18 years as an age limit for one to get married but the challenge remains with the constitution which isn’t clear on marriage age.

“This is the reason we are calling the Malawi Parliament to swiftly look into this disparities and change the supreme law of the land on age marriage into 18 than the currently one which only states that those between 15 and 18 can enter into marriage without elaboration”, urges Dzimkambani.

Apart from the constitution’s inconsistency on marriage age, the report also lamented on low funding towards the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare with only 0.36% of the national budget which was difficult to implement CEDAW recommendation in the country.

The United Nation General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979 which came into force in 1981 consisting of the international bill of rights for women.

Malawi ratified the convention in March 1987 and obligated to eliminate discrimination in the exercise and enjoyment of all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Malawi as a signatory to the convention is bound to report the CEDAW Committee on legislative, judicial and administrative measures through periodic
report submissions at least every four years.

The CEDAW report for Malawi 2015 was jointly done by Oxfam Malawi, UN Women, Action Aid Malawi, Norwegian Church Aid, Care, NGO Gender Co-ordination Network, International Land Coalition, Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Education Trust Malawi (WLSA-Malawi), University Of Malawi-Chancellor College.

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