The Marriages Bills Timeline
19 July 2019: Marriages Bill Published
On 19 July the Government of Zimbabwe published the marriages Bills and it was advertised in the Gazette. The Bill aimed at abolishing child marriages, promoting gender equality and rights of persons in civil partnerships among several provisions in line with the new Constitution. The Bill will also harmonize marriage laws by repealing the Customary Marriages Act (Chapter 5:07) and the Marriage Act (5:11).
26 July 2019
Members of the parliament shot down an attempt by Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi to begin a process of having Marriages Bill debated in Parliament.
31 July 2019: Cabinet “proposes” withdrawal of Civil partnerships
Cabinet proposed withdrawal of a clause in the Marriages Amendment Bill that provided for “civil partnership” saying such a union was alien and not consistent with the country’s cultural and Christian values. The withdrawal of the clause means Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi was expected to steer the Bill in Parliament will now propose the deletion of the contentious provision at Committee stage.
26 – 30 August 2019: Public Consultation
The public consultative hearings were conducted by the parliamentary portfolio committee (PPC) from 26 to 30 August 2019. Seven teams made up of members of four parliamentary committees from Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs; Women Affairs, Community and SME Development; Health and Child Care and the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development conducted the hearings in all provinces from 26 August to 30 December.
Women and Law in southern Africa Zimbabwe in partnership with other Civil Society Organization attended the public hearings and below are highlights of what was being raised by participants from various provinces in Zimbabwe:
Communities, particularly women applauded the banning of child marriages by the Bill. However, they were concerned about how the law was going to be implemented in communities or sects such as the white garment churches which are believed to be the wide perpetrators of child marriages.
Parents wanted the law on age of consent to sex to be aligned with that of age of consent to marry which is 18 years old so as to hamper down child marriages caused by the fact that the girl would have been impregnated at a young age. The Bill however is silent on the issue of age of consent to sex.
Communities were worried that the Bill did not reflect a true consolidation of Marriage Laws in Zimbabwe as it sought to achieve in its Preamble. This was seen as problematic as the Bill is silent on critical issues which affect marriages such as property rights, inheritance and custody and guardianship of minors. Communities, particularly those we engaged with in urban/peri-urban areas did not apprciate how marriage laws in Zimbabwe are scattered across several pieces of legislation which makes it virtually impossible for one to know all laws that will affect them once they choose to get married.
Communities were hesitant about having their chiefs as marriage officers for traditional marriages as many were worried about the processes that would be involved in securing a chief to solemnise their unions and considering the fact that our chiefs vary in age and intellectual capacity, rural communities were concerned whether chiefs would go for marriage trainings just like any marriage officers so as to avoid any mistakes when solemnising unions.
The contentious Clause 40 received mixed reviews with the majority of communities requesting that they be given enough time to research on civil partnerships and to process so as to adequately create a law that seeks to protect all women adequately without necessarily infinging upon the rights of other women. The sanctity of marriage was strongly supported however community members then became aware that couples living with disabilities and those who could not get married due to financial constraints or family disapproval were the people targetted by this clause. However, the clause did not place a limit on how many civil partners a person could have at a time and this was problematic.
Communities appreciated the reasoning behind the de-criminalisation of wilful transmission of HIV/AIDS as it perpetuated stigma and discrimination and discouraged people from getting tested due to fears of being arrested. However, communities want a law to be crafted which deals with rapists who infect young children with HIV/AIDS.
29 August 2019: First parliamentary Reading
On 29 August 2019, the Marriages Bill was read and it was referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee. The PLC is responsible for determining the constitutionality of a Bill which essentially means that they are vetting the Marriages Bill so as to establish whether it conforms to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The PLC has to compile a report of whether in its opinion, if the Bill is enacted, it would be in contravention of the Bill of Rights or any other provision of the Constitution and this report is presented to the House for adoption.
30 August 2019: Closing Day for submissions
30 August marked the last day for the public to make marriages bill submissions through soft copies or hard copies.
19 September 2019: Due date for the report
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee caucused to deliberate on the findings from the public hearings and produce a report.
26 September 2019: End of the First Session
Kindly note that the following Bills lapsed following the end of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament on 26 September 2019: Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency [H. B. 2, 2019]”, Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Amendment [H. B. 4, 2019], Coroner’s Office [H. B. 5, 2019], Freedom of Information [H. B. 6, 2019], Marriages [H. B. 7, 2019] and Zimbabwe Media Commission [H. B. 8, 2019],
In terms of Standing Order any public Bill which lapses by reason of the end of a Session before it has been agreed to by the National Assembly and the Senate it might be allowed to proceed with in the next ensuing Session at the stage it had reached in the preceding Session.
01 October 2019: Second Session of the Parliament.
The President of Zimbabwe opened the second session of the 9th session. The president spelled out the legislative agenda by outlining the Bills set to be presented in the coming Session. The opening of the Second Session marked the end of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament, which saw at least 15 Bills out of 30 being presented.
22 October 2019: Debate of the Marriages Bill in Parliament
The Motions on the following Bills, which were superseded by the end of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament be restored on the Order Paper at the Stage at which the Bills had reached in terms of Standing Order No. 161 (1).
- Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency Bill (H.B. 2, 2019)
- Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bill, (H. B. 4, 2019)-
- Coroner’s Office Bill, (H. B. 5, 2019
- Marriages Bill (H.B. 7, 2019)
- Freedom of Information Bill (H.B. 6, 2019)
- Education Amendment Bill (H. B. 1C, 2019)
12 November 2019: Parly resumes sitting
Parliament resumed sitting on 12 November after a three-week break during which parliamentarians were involved in preparations for the 2020 National Budget that was presented by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube. Both the National Assembly and the Senate are expected to debate on the Marriages Bill.
To Date :
The Marriages Bill is currently waiting on the Parliamentary Legal Committee report. This report reveals the findings from the public hearings conducted between 26-30 August 2019.