An adult citizen in Mozambique, regardless of his or her marital status, who marries a child under the age of 18, will be punishable with a sentence ranging from eight to 12 years in prison, and a fine of up to two years.
Such is the measure foreseen in the proposal for a Law to Prevent and Combat Premature Marriage approved yesterday by a consensus of the Assembly of the Republic at the beginning of the work of the IX Ordinary Session of the VIII Legislature.
The legal instrument is aimed at prohibiting, preventing, mitigating and penalising premature unions, as well as establishing mechanisms to protect children in these unions.
The law establishes that the union between two persons, formed with the future or immediate purpose of constituting a family, will only be allowed to those who have reached the age of 18 at the date of its constitution.
In addition to penalising the perpetrators of marriage before this age, the law sanctions public servants who celebrate or authorise the celebration of marriages between an adult and anyone under the age of 18 with possible sentences of two to eight years in prison.
It also threatens figures of traditional or religious authority who, in the exercise of their functions, knowingly authorise any marriage in which either or both the partners is a child with up to two years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Citizens who deliver up children for marriage in exchange for goods, or for payment or guarantee of debt, or in fulfilment of a promise, or as a gift or for any other purpose contrary to the law, may also be sanctioned.
Any father, mother, parental guardian, stepmother, stepfather or any relative of direct descent or even of third degree, or person who exercises some power over the child and authorises the marriage of a child, or instigates it, entices it or fails to prevent it, will be liable to two to eight years imprisonment.
In addition, the new law prohibits union between children, adopts measures to end existing premature unions, sets criteria for the protection of rights enjoyed by the child in a premature union, and refers to the Council of Ministers the task of adopting mechanisms to mitigate the negative effects of this phenomenon.
Submitted by the Assembly’s Commission on Social Affairs, Gender, Technology and Communication in partnership with civil society organisations working in women’s and children’s rights, the approved proposal is modelled on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) model law on the eradication of premarital marriages and child protection.
The proposal was approved by consensus by all three Mozambican parliamentary groups, namely Frelimo, Renamo and the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM).