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680 minors impregnated in six months Ministry of Health and Child Care director, AIDS and TB Unit, Dr Owen Mugurungi, presented grim statistics of child pregnancies on Thursday at a National AIDS Council (NAC)-organised editors’ workshop in Chinhoyi.

Africa Moyo in CHINHOYI

When Anna Machaya, who was 15 years old, died due to complications during childbirth at an Apostolic shrine in Manicaland in 2021, the nation was outraged. 

More outrage is on the way as 680 minors aged between 10 and 14 were impregnated between January and June 2023.  

Ministry of Health and Child Care director, AIDS and TB Unit, Dr Owen Mugurungi, presented grim statistics of child pregnancies on Thursday at a National AIDS Council (NAC)-organised editors’ workshop in Chinhoyi.

Dr Mugurungi said 680 girls aged between 10 and 14, fell pregnant and presented for antenatal care bookings between January and June last year alone.

Another age group that is affected, which largely falls outside of the provisions of the Marriages Act, is the 15 years to 19 years.

Statistics show that between January and June last year, 51 376 fell pregnant and went for antenatal care bookings.

It also came out that of the 680 girls that were impregnated, 0,1 percent of them were HIV positive, while in the 15 to 19 age group, 9,7 percent of the 51 376 were also HIV positive.

Overall, Zimbabwe has 1,3 million HIV positive people, with 750 000 being women.

A suspect in connection with Machaya’s case, Hatirarame Momberume, has since been arrested and appeared in court facing murder charges and having a sexual relationship with a minor.

He was granted bail by a Mutare High Court judge.

Again, when a 9-year-old Tsholotsho girl was announced to be pregnant in 2022 and eventually gave birth, it left the country depressed at the frequency of child and teen pregnancies.

For the Tsholotsho girl, it later turned out after DNA results obtained from the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) that the girl was impregnated by her cousin (13) and not her father as had been earlier claimed.

Ever since those two cases became public and were debated by ordinary Zimbabweans and experts, awareness campaigns were heightened, with laws being put in place to eliminate child pregnancies and child marriage

The country’s Constitution, described by many experts as “progressive”, enshrines gender equality and provides for justiciable rights.

On May 27, 2022, President Mnangagwa signed the Marriages Act into law. The law prohibits the marriage of minors under the age of 18, and the nation has welcomed it.

However, the scourge of child and teen pregnancies seems far from being tamed going by the statistics released at the NAC workshop. 

In an interview after officially opening the editors’ workshop on Thursday, Acting Health and Child Care Minister Professor Paul Mavima, said the statistics were “worrying and a big indictment on the country’s values”.

“These are very worrying statistics; these are people who are supposed to be in primary education and should be very far away from parenthood and getting pregnant at that age,” he said.

“It is a big indictment to our values, a big indictment to the family unit in Zimbabwe. Guidance of these learners is supposed to start in elementary education and in families.

“We need to do something as a nation to revive the family unit, including the extended family structures to guide and protect these kids so that we don’t deal with such levels of prevalence of child pregnancy.”

The education system, added Prof Mavima, needs to step up efforts at preventive measures that should be taken to eliminate child pregnancies.

Equally, traditional and religious leaders are required to play a critical role in ending child pregnancies.

Added Prof Mavima: “Our intervention as a nation should mirror the same importance that we are according to drug and substance abuse.”

He praised First Lady, Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa, for the work she is doing across the country through a number of programmes including the Gota/Nhanga/ Ixhiba, through which she engages young girls and boys on how they should take care of themselves.

National police spokesperson, Commissioner Paul Nyathi, yesterday said he did not immediately have statistics on the number of people arrested for impregnating young girls but promised to provide them next week.

However, the courts have been busy incarcerating those found to have abused minors.

Recently, a 19-year-old man was in court for allegedly dating and impregnating his 14-year-old sister in Uzumba.

He appeared before a Mutawatawa magistrate answering to charges of having sexual intercourse within a prohibited degree of relationship (incest).

In Karoi, a 31-year-old man was sentenced to 15 years for raping and impregnating a Grade 7 learner.

The man is said to have proposed to the girl in September last year, but the girl rejected his proposal.

He tried for a second time and the girl is said to have reluctantly agreed and he then manipulated her into having unprotected sex with her in a soybean field.

He continued raping the minor on multiple occasions resulting in the pregnancy.

The complainant’s mother grew suspicious when her daughter exhibited signs of pregnancy.

In Umguza, a 79-year-old man from Igusi Village was arrested for allegedly raping his 12-year-old granddaughter multiple times, impregnating her.

Child pregnancies and child marriages are criticised for their impact on the lives of girls as some of them fail to go back to school and realise their full potential after tertiary education, a development that tends to drive them into poverty as they grow up.

Children who fall pregnant are also deprived of their right to be a child.

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