Zimbabwe girl who gave birth aged 15 is silenced over death

Image copyright VCG Image caption The child’s death was revealed in a viral video The death of a 15-year-old girl while giving birth to a baby boy has exposed the murky world of child…

Zimbabwe girl who gave birth aged 15 is silenced over death

Image copyright VCG Image caption The child’s death was revealed in a viral video

The death of a 15-year-old girl while giving birth to a baby boy has exposed the murky world of child marriage.

In a viral video, the girl is being carried by a male relative and a child of the same age pushes a buggy across the rubble of destroyed houses.

The girl was six months pregnant.

It was her first marriage and she had been separated from her husband, 20 years her senior.

Her fellow villagers in rural Zimbabwe used a blunt saw and stone to cut off the girl’s uterus.

In the video a local official said they had saved her life and a pregnant young woman had died.

One villager told a local daily paper: “You have to be careful about what you put in your mouth and do. Our people practise certain customs that we do not like.”

The practice is widespread in rural Zimbabwe, with many women married at least once. Women face numerous risks.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption It is not known why she was taken from the room

Deaths and injuries in childbirth are common among rural women and girls.

Child marriage is often used to justify the practice. Older men in the community usually take advantage of a girl’s disadvantage.

At the ceremony, apparently the girl’s father explained: “I took her away, she is now my daughter. I cannot allow my relatives to interfere with this.”

The girl’s father was also seen attending the ceremony.

It is not known why the girl was taken from the room.

The BBC’s Africa editor Justin Fenton says child marriage is a problem in Zimbabwe, but the practice is such that it is being ignored.

He says while in most cases health officials talk to families about the risks of teenage pregnancy and child marriage, the realities are often different in rural areas.

Traditionally, many of the girls are married at home without consent, often without any medical attention, he says.

Zimbabwe’s health minister David Parirenyatwa is trying to end child marriage through a poverty-focused health programme.

He says it is particularly pertinent in poor areas where hundreds of thousands of girls are at risk.

The minister has called for ‘zero tolerance’ for child marriage and says whatever community members believe is the best for their own community, including terminating pregnancy, should be treated as a crime.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Gender has issued a statement urging reports of cases of child marriage to be reported to Child Welfare authorities, who in turn carry out investigations.

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