MPs speak on minimum legal age of sexual consent
Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care has denied ever proposing that the minimum legal age of sexual consent to be revised downwards to 12 from 16 years, amid massive criticism from different organisations and individuals.Some women organisations were even planning to petition the committee against this move.
In an interview with The Herald, the committee’s chairperson Dr Ruth Labode said issues that were brought to the fore at a gathering recently held in Kadoma were to do with access to reproductive health services for girls below the current age of sexual consent.Dr Labode said the current law required girls below the age of 16 years to be accompanied by either of their parents or legal guardian for them to access sexual and reproductive health services.
“The current law does not permit girls below 16 years to seek sexual and reproductive health services from a clinic on their own. They must be accompanied by either of their parents or a legal guardian.“For example, if a girl below 16 years is suffering from a sexually transmitted disease (STD), she cannot seek treatment on her own. In fact, if the caregiver proceeds to assist the young girl without the consent of her parents and the girl experiences some side effects or complications, the nurse can actually be sued by the girl’s family for attending to the minor without their consent,” said Dr Labode.
She said this scenario, therefore creates complications for access to sexual and reproductive health services by girls below the age of sexual consent as it discourages them from getting medical assistance, leading to illegal abortions, unwanted pregnancies and in some cases early marriages, among other issues.
Dr Labode said the committee is also aware that the age of sexual debut in Zimbabwe is as low as nine years.“Girls are having sex as early as 12 years, as demonstrated by a report given by Primary and Secondary Education former Minister Lazarus Dokora. An organization called Katswe Sisterhood also exposed the rampant young sex-workers in Epworth. This issue was extensively debated in the Eighth Parliament but no solution was proffered,” said Dr Labode.
“Currently the Parliament is sitting on a petition from the Chiredzi Community asking Parliament to investigation the alarming levels of child sex work and illegal abortions in the community.”