MOST PEOPLE WOULD AGREE THAT child marriage is not a good thing. Children should have the time to be children without being rushed into adulthood. But if current trends hold, an estimated 150 million girls will be married underage in the next 10 years. The African Union estimates that around 14 million African girls are forced into underage marriages on a yearly basis. But on Wednesday, one African country, Zimbabwe — not usually a country that’s known for it’s stellar human rights record — banned underage marriages.
The country’s highest court decided that no one under the age of 18 could get married, a move will undoubtedly save many, many lives, and which will also help give countless girls a chance to get out of the cycle of poverty.
Underage marriage has a negative effect on entire communities: it keeps women subservient to their husbands (who are often much older than them), it makes it harder for them to get a proper education, which makes it harder for them to escape poverty. Younger women are also more at risk of developing a fistula or other pregnancy-related injuries that can hamper them for the rest of their lives.
It remains to be seen how strictly the new Zimbabwe ruling will be enforced, but the ruling itself is a big step forward in helping lift girls out of poverty.