Chief Kasomalwela of Chembe area in Mansa district has bemoaned the increase in the number of parents who are arranging marriages for their underage children.
The chief said today that underage marriages are high in Chembe area and are affecting the education of the girl children.
He said the marriages were exposing the girls to HIV at a tender age.
He said early marriages are also exposing young girls to complications when giving birth, a situation that has resulting in increased maternal and infant mortality.
The traditional leader has since vowed not to relent in his efforts to address the problems of early marriages.
He has since introduced measures to deter parents from marrying off their underage girls.
The chief said that apart from dissolving the early marriages and taking to courts the parents who marry off their children he has started expelling parents perpetuating early marriages from his chiefdom.
He said he was also punishes the parents to work hard labour by cultivating the communal crop field known as Mulima Chipuba in Bemba.
The chief was speaking at the official opening of a two-day child protection and gender based violence for stakeholders, which was organised by Plan International.
The traditional ruler, who is also attending the meeting, told the participants that the measures he has put in place have been necessitated by the increased cases of early marriages.
“I have observed that underage marriages are rife in my area and are affecting the education of the girl children and exposing them to HIV at a tender age. Early marriages are exposing young girls to complications when giving birth resulting in increased maternal and infant mortality,” the chief said.
He noted that the strengthening of child related laws and the introduction of child protection unit was a major stride in ensuring that children remain protected.
However, the traditional ruler called for increased commitment by government to child protection by ensuring that existing laws at all levels are strengthened.
The traditional leader also proposed that government should also make child protection programmes as part its priorities in the Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP).
The two-day child protection and gender based violence workshop has been organised to increase awareness on child protection and gender based violence in communities and also seek feasible interventions that communities will fully embrace.
And Plan International has said the problem of early marriages is high in Mansa and was contributing to high dropout rates of the girl children from school.