Suicide puts pressure on Govt

HARARE - Mounting outrage following the suicide of a 17-year-old Hurungwe girl after relentless abuse by her husband, Hurungwe Zanu (PF) MP Franco Ndambakuwa, has put renewed pressure on the government to tighten the punishment for underage marriages.

The girl died on arrival at a rural hospital in Hurungwe after she took poison, according to her mother Eunice. She was four months pregnant at the time of her death. She was just 15 when her ailing father pulled her out of school and forced her to marry the MP, a man three times her age at 42.

On her deathbed, the girl related to her mother the relentless abuse she endured at the hands of the legislator, who in turn accused her of being promiscuous. He claims he battered her because she was sleeping around, and claims he had extricated her from the jaws of poverty by marrying her at a tender age. The MP says he did not know she was underage and that she lied about her age.

Early marriages are becoming widespread in Zimbabwe, especially in the rural areas. Girl Child Network director, Betty Makoni, said she was profoundly saddened to hear the news of the death of the young girl. “MP Ndambakuwa must face rape and murder charges of a girl he held in sexual slavery under guise of marriage at 15,” Makoni said.

The Zanu (PF) MP is alleged to have paid two beasts and US$300 as roora (bride price) to mollify the parents and prompt them to bury their daughter. Another women rights group activist told The Zimbabwean that early marriages were becoming prevalent, and several girls were dropping out of school. She said her organisation had been trying to spread awareness about the dangers faced by young brides, and has succeeded over the last few years in stopping several marriages between girls and men.

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