R v Chinjamba (1949) 5 N.R.L.R 384

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Facts

A villager who went by the name of Fulai had married a girl who was under the age of sixteen. The accused was a village headman who knew of this development but however did not disclose nor report the matter to the authorities. He was accused of being an accessory to the unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of sixteen.

Issue

Whether the accused and the perpetrator should have criminal liability in light of these facts?

Held

The court held that a man cannot be convicted of having unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of sixteen if he has married her .i.e. she is his wife.

Commentary

This case reveals the dark-side of Zambian Law. Although statutory law prohibits marrying a girl under the age of sixteen, unless consent is obtained from a judge, customary law has no such limits.  One would argue, is it fair to punish a person for having carnal knowledge with an under-age girl and then let the other go scot-free only on the premise that he is married to her? Does marriage then, act as a defence for such heinous acts? It seems this matter has to be taken up in parliament because clearly, something needs to be done.

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