SMALL-to-Medium Enterprises minister Sithembiso Nyoni has called for the arrest of a Chinese miner and parents who married off their 15-year-old daughter to the foreign national.
The teenager, from Sanyati district under Chief Neuso in Mashonaland West has since dropped out of school at Tomdrayer Secondary School where she was in Form Three.
Police have said they were investigating the case.
“The minor is under 18 years and it is unconstitutional. Those parents must be brought to book and the Chinese national must be arrested over the matter. This is unacceptable,” Nyoni said yesterday in an interview.
Child rights groups yesterday launched an online petition calling for an urgent investigation into the case.
Karen Mukwasi, a human rights activist started the petition titled A call to action on Chinese nationals and child sexual exploitation.
Mukwasi said child sexual exploitation cases were on the rise in Zimbabwe and robbed the girl child of her fundamental rights.
“The police need to close in on the Chinese perpetrator. Locals have reported that the family is considering swapping the victim’s identity with that of an older sibling and police need to close in and prevent any cover up,” the petition read.
“The child is not safe in the custody of parents who voluntarily exploited her for financial gain and, therefore, police should work with relevant departments to remove the child to a safe environment until the case is concluded.”
The Chinese national is employed at Ringxin/Mambo Mine as an engineer. The parents of the girl were reportedly paid US$2 000 as bride price on November 26.
African Union goodwill ambassador on ending child marriages, Nyaradzayi Gumbodzvanda said this could be a tip of the iceberg.
“Such dangerous criminal behaviour must be nipped in the bud. Government must review the terms and conditions of some of these investors to ensure compliance with the laws of the country,’’ Gumbodzvanda said.
Panos Institute Southern Africa executive director Vusumusi Sifile said ending child marriages needed the involvement of all stakeholders including the media, police and civic society.
‘‘There must be zero tolerance to people who are causing child marriages in the communities,’’ said Sifile.
Pamuhacha HIV and Aids executive director Precious Nyamukondiwa said parents, who accepted lobola in child marriages should be arrested.
Child protection specialist Chingasiyeni Govhiati added: “When Parliament drags its feet in coming up with child protection laws that are foolproof and which are in harmony with the Constitution, then unscrupulous societal elements take advantage and violate the rights of girls.”
The government has introduced a Marriage Bill which contains provisions aimed at curbing child marriages by penalising perpetrators. The issue of child marriage was brought to the fore following the death of 14-year-old Memory Machaya at a Johanne Masowe shrine in Marange recently.