PROSECUTOR General Johannes Tomana, on a visit to Bulawayo on Wednesday, June 17, granted an interview to The Chronicle, giving his thoughts on the ongoing debate about the age of consent in Zimbabwe.
Child rights campaigners are outraged at a growing trend by the courts to give child molesters non-custodial sentences, including a 19-year-old man who impregnated a 12-year-old Grade 7 pupil.
Predatory men are getting away with a mere ticking off by arguing that the sexual intercourse was “consensual”.
Zimbabwe’s top prosecutor, after reaffirming that the age of consent remains 16, went on to make controversial statements including:
# “It’s assumed that the girl child’s independent decisions start at an age that those that are speaking want to fix , but if you go out there you’ll find out that some of them may want to start out [having sex] in life early.”
# “We’ve nine-year-olds, 12-year-olds, 13-year-olds who’re not in school, who’re not doing anything for example. What are we saying to them? Then we say you can’t even do this [have sex], when the environment is not giving them alternative engagements? What are we talking about?”
# “If we educate our girl child universally up to, for example, where they get to the age of 18 in an environment where you guarantee that they’re not abused, then we are talking. But to simply say ‘no such and such conduct for any girl say below the age of 16’, I think we’ve not asked ourselves what we’re saying about that girl who would rather prefer to lead their life in the direction of getting married.”
# “In some cases, if you talk to our prosecutors, the experience is that you find that she would actually demonstrate to you that you’re destroying their life and demand you let that guy go because it’s her own will, she wants to get married to that person. You’ll also find out that person also wants to get married to the girl. Is it not better to allow them to get married than send this one to jail after she has already been violated, for example, and send her back to society that would not actually look at her as a pure person anymore. Is that better?”
# “I want to say they’re very sensible people and I know girls develop faster than boys and they mature faster than boys. Are we saying we should continue talking on their behalf when they’re there? Do we just change these laws to suit ourselves and our dreams that have nothing to do with addressing the real conditions that they live in?”
# On sending convicted paedophiles to perform community service at schools: “I think let’s look at it from the point of view that this is a punishment that’s serving its purpose because is there any record that if we make them mop in any school they pose any harm? Remember, when we punish people, we also expect to rehabilitate them, do you know that? They’re supposed to be rehabilitated, which means brought back to society and fit into the society as well. So I don’t see any harm in that.”
BELOW IS THE FULL, UNEDITED AUDIO OF THAT INTERVIEW: