By Palmira Velasco
During a debate on the retention of girls in school, held in the District of Gondola, Province of Manica, in the center of Mozambique, in the presence of students, community and religious leaders, parents and guardians, the Secretary of State of Manica, Stefan Dick gave a speech encouraging premature unions among children.
At one point in his speech, Stefan Dick asked, ‘when Mary became pregnant with Jesus Christ, how old was she? I don’t want to answer my own question’.
In a province with the highest rate of cases of premature unions, the Secretary of State of Manica suggested that the country reflect again on unions with children, criminalized since 2019, and also asked that the physical characteristics of children in these situations be taken into consideration in premature relationships, as there are cases of a 12-year-old child who appears to be 22 years old. This is discouraging especially during the tenure of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence.
The leader spoke words that can be interpreted as support and encouragement for premature unions, contradicting the efforts of the Government and Mozambican civil society organizations that culminated in the approval and implementation of specific legislation to combat this evil. Stefan Dick even went so far as to consider premature unions as a long-standing universal and practical issue. ‘Let us rethink this issue within our context’, suggested Stefan Dick. The position of the Mozambican leader did not please around 100 non-governmental child protection organizations and they called for the immediate dismissal of the Secretary of State of Manica.
The Secretary of State’s statement, in addition to being shocking to society as a whole, goes against the efforts of the Government, civil society organizations and the Mozambican people in general, but also violates all the principles and laws that should guide good governance, and constitutes a crime since it encourages the population to disrespect the law to combat and prevent premature unions. The President of the Republic of Mozambique, Filipe Jacinto Nyussi dismissed the Secretary of State of the Province of Manica, responding to the request of civil society organizations that work for the rights and protection of children and girls. Mozambique ranks 10th among the countries with the highest rates of premature unions worldwide, 7th on the African continent and 2nd in Southern Africa.