Source:The Southern Times
SADC member states have approved the draft Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and Protecting Children Already in Marriage, setting the stage for its final adoption by the Plenary Assembly of the SADC Parliamentary Forum.

The draft which that was conscripted by legal personnel from Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia was drafted for over five days in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The purpose of the meeting was to review the draft model law to ensure its compliance with international legal drafting codes and efficacy to the policy and legal objective of eradicating child marriage which is a serious concern in the SADC region.

The legal drafters went through the draft model law clause by clause before they approved it. Renowned Botswana High Court Judge Prof Oagile Dingake, who holds a PhD in law, facilitated the validation meeting.

Communications Programme Analyst at the United Nations Population Fund, Emma Mbekele said the approval by the legal drafters is the penultimate stage before the adoption of the model law by parliamentarians from SADC National Parliaments who are scheduled to meet in Swaziland in June 2016 for the 39th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC-PF.

“With support from the governments of Sweden and Norway, the SADC-PF and other partners developed the model law in response to the prevalence of child marriage in Southern Africa, which is driven by a number of factors including high poverty levels, gender inequity, traditions, religion, limited education and inadequate legal frameworks in Member States, most of which are inconsistent. Research shows that an estimated eight percent of all pregnancies are teenage pregnancies and 16 percent of all births in the sub-region are teenage pregnancies,” she said

In addition, Mbekele says 36 percent of all maternal deaths are teenage deaths while unsafe abortions are responsible for 13 percent of maternal deaths, painting a bleak picture in a region in which scores of people including adolescents have poor access to Sexual Reproductive Health Rights services.

“SADC PF’s efforts to develop and adopt a regional model law on eradicating child marriage and protecting children already in marriage has received support from the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) East and Southern Africa Regional Office, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA), Plan International’s 18 Plus Programme, the Southern African Litigation Centre and Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.”

The process to develop the model law started in 2015 and has involved wide consultations with various stakeholders in SADC Member States at regional level including victims of child marriages, Parliamentarians, civil society organizations and Human Rights Commissions.

When adopted the model law will be a yardstick providing guidance to legislators, policymakers and other stakeholders in SADC Members States as they develop national laws to eradicate child marriages and protect those already in marriage.

The inspirational law has best practice provisions, making it easy for Member States to adapt or adopt it in keeping with their national situations. The ultimate aim is that national laws are harmonised and without loopholes so as to prevent child marriage.

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