SRHR Africa Trust (SAT) country director Robert Mangwazu Phiri has asked chiefs to punish perpetrators of child marriages to deal with increased cases of teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
He made the appeal at Liwonde in Machinga on Saturday during a stakeholders’ consultative workshop SAT organised in collaboration with a Nayuchi youth-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Youth Response for Social Change (YRSC).
The workshop was attended by chiefs, council officials, religious leaders, mother groups and magistrates, among others to identify the causes of teenage pregnancies and child marriages and identify remedies for the vices.
In an interview, however, Phiri observed that Machinga remains one of the districts in the country which has increased cases of teenage pregnancies and child marriages due to factors such as culture, poverty and lack of role modelling.
He said: “Much as there are many factors contributing to teenage pregnancies and child marriages, the main problem is our chiefs. Instead of cracking whips on offenders, they tend to treat the matter with kid gloves.
“Hence, we ask our chiefs to draw lessons from their counterparts such as Traditional Authority Kachindamoto of Dedza who effected harsh punishments to perpetrators to deter others from doing the same.”
In his remarks, Senior Chief Mulomba said the call was a serious reminder to the need to deal with early marriages and that it will provoke them to vigorously fight the challenges.
“We accept the challenge and we promise to fight head on to reverse the trend,” he pledged.
A recent survey by the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare established that the number of teenage pregnancies rose nationwide during last year’s five-month Covid-19 induced school break.