Maputo, 20 (AIM) – A group of about 100 Mozambican Civil Society Organizations have called for the dismissal of the Secretary of State for the central province of Manica, Florentino Dick Kassotche, for allegedly justifying child marriage.
The NGOs in question are represented by the Civil Society Forum for Children’s Rights – (ROSC), the Civil Society Learning and Training Centre (CESC), the Women’s Forum, the Men for Change Network, the Network Against Child Abuse and the Coalition for the Elimination of Child Marriage.
The controversial statements were made during an event in the town of Gondola regarding “girls’ retention at school.” It was attended by girls, community and religious leaders and parents.
“There are children aged 10 who have the body of a 23-year-old mother”, Kassotche said. He then asked, suggesting that motherhood at a young age was normal: “When Mary became pregnant with Jesus, how old was she?”
According to the civil society organizations, “by making such statements, we interpret that the Secretary of State is calling into question national and international achievements and progress made by the State and Government of Mozambique, as well as by civil society and the entire Mozambican people.”
The organizations that signed the position paper claim that the speech by Dick Kassotche, (also known by his nom-de-plume Stefan Dick), “violates the assumptions and rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic, the Family Law, the Law on Preventing and Combating Child Marriage and the other legal instruments that protect and defend the rights of children.”
According to the note, Florentino Kassotche has shirked his responsibility as a government official to enforce the legal framework and in particular article 23 of the Law on Child Marriage of 2019, which establishes that “it is up to the government to promote programmes and opportunities aimed at encouraging and retaining children in school and measures of positive discrimination against girls with a view to broadening educational opportunities.”
The NGOs demanded that Kassotche publicly apologise, and that President Filipe Nyusi should promptly sack him. Nyusi appointed Kassotche as Secretary of State for Manica last January.
The organizations also demand that the Public Prosecutor’s Office, in its capacity as public defender, investigate what they called “this public crime”, which violates the constitutional principle of defending the “best interests of the child.”