Woman Who Lost Arm to Crocodile in Zimbabwe Weds in Hospital fietzfotos/Pixabay

A teen girl in Zimbabwe who died after giving birth at a church shrine has prompted the United Nations to release a statement condemning child marriage. The recent death of 14-year-old Memory Machaya has caused much outrage among citizens and rights activists as the government continues to turn a blind eye to the said practice.

Machaya died on July 15 at an apostolic church in Marange while giving birth and was secretly buried two hours later by the church. Local media have reported that the girl’s family was barred by the church’s security from attending her burial. The girl’s distraught family said they have been under pressure from the church to keep mum about the case.

Reports stated the girl was said to have been forced out of school and into marriage when she was just 13-years old. In a statement released on Aug. 7, the UN office in Zimbabwe expressed their deep concern on the circumstances leading to the death of Machaya and strongly condemned the practice of forced child marriages.

According to Reuters, Zimbabwe’s apostolic churches allow child marriages covered under the country’s two sets of marriage laws. The Marriage Act and Customary Marriages Act. There is no minimum age stated for both rulings with customary marriage laws also allowing polygamy.

These Indigenous apostolic churches represent an evangelical group that blends Christian beliefs with traditional cultures and has gained millions of followers across Zimbabwe. They reject hospital treatments as their faith promises to heal illnesses and deliver people from poverty. One member of an apostolic church was even quoted telling Human Rights Watch that as soon as a girl reaches puberty, “any man in the church can claim her for his wife.”

Meanwhile, Machaya’s family was also informed that the church plans to give a 9-year-old girl as replacement to the “widowed” husband.

A new marriage bill filed before parliament seeks to synchronize both existing marriage laws in the country and criminalizing marriage of anyone below 18 years of age. Any person involved in a marriage ceremony of a minor will be prosecuted.

“The current trend of unresolved cases of violence against women and girls in Zimbabwe, including marriages of minors, cannot continue with impunity," the UN said in a statement on Saturday.

Police and the country's state gender commission said they were investigating the circumstances that led to the girl's death and burial.

An online petition calling for justice for Machaya has already amassed more than 36,500 signatures.

Representation Image African Children Amazos/ Pixabay

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