There has been much controversy about the unofficial Marriages Bill which is being circulated via different social media platforms and is yet to be gazetted. In last week’s article, we offered some perspective on the current marriage regime with a particular focus on the imbalances that exist within the unregistered customary law union framework.
To continue on this trajectory we shall explore the regional and international instruments that should guide this process of harmonising Zimbabwe’s marriage laws. These instruments are regional and international laws formulated to provide a standard upon which each signatory country must aspire to.
They are there to promote the full realisation of human rights based on research and the input and resolution of many different countries. Zimbabwe, as a signatory to some of these laws will benefit immensely from upholding the human rights standards provided therein.
The term harmonisation in this context means that the laws should be united together and couched under one Act of Parliament as opposed to having different Acts being the Marriage Act (Chapter 5:11) and the Customary Marriages Act (Chapter 5:07).
It also means that the differences between these laws, especially in Zimbabwe where one is monogamous and the other is potentially polygamous are recognised within the same law and given an equal opportunity to exist in harmony with each other.
These parallel laws as they stand provide for discrimination as marriages do not have equal status before the law with the general law marriages being given a superior status while the unregistered customary law unions are given limited recognition.
The aim of harmonising is to promote equality and non-discrimination before the law so that inequalities prevalent in the status of marriage are resolved. It also stands to mainstream African customary law and the protection of property and inheritance rights of spouses.
Harmonisation will address the issue of age of consent to marriage so that it will echo the eighteen years bench mark which has been stipulated by the Constitution and it will also prioritise free and full consent of both parties in the solemnisation of all marriages and unions.