Zimbabwe Age of sexual Consent issue clarified

March 9, 2019
| Report Focus News

Harare, The chairperson of Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care (PPCHCC), honourable Ruth Labode has denied claims her committee called for the age of sexual consent to be reduced from 16 to 12 years.

Dr Ruth Labode, attributed the misinformation to an online publication which she says misunderstood the committee’s drive to reduce the age of consent when it comes to access to health services, not sexual consent.

The misinformation caused a stir sparking debate and ridicule on Zimbabwean legislators.

The issue is about minors’ access to health. Our proposal to the Permanent Secretary of Health, Dr (Gerald) Gwinji was that, since we’re pushing the age of consent to 18, we need a provision for 16-year-olds who, in terms of the current law, can consent to sex, to be able to access health services even without their parents.

Because a 16-year-old is a minor, she cannot, for instance, get contraceptives or get STI treatment without her parents. The committee never said anything about reducing the age of consent, we actually support calls to raise it. We don’t know where that came from.

In 2016, Dr Dokora who was the minister of education at the time issued a Ministerial statement in which he told legislators that 4 500 girls had dropped out of school due to pregnancy and early marriages.

“A total of 305 549 will enrol in day secondary school with effect from Monday, 12th December, 2016. Sadly, 4 500 of our girls and boys will not be seeking Form 1 places in 2017, having regrettably left school owing to pregnancies and marriages,” said Dr Dokora then.

With these issues still fresh in the minds of many Zimbabweans the misinformation with regards the reduction age of sexual consent caused a heated debate on social media platforms as members of the public castigated the legislators. However, as it now turns out it was fake news from an online publication.

In 2015, there was a debate on whether or not condoms should be distributed in schools, with proponents of the idea arguing that school children should have access to protection as they were becoming sexually active earlier.

Dr Labode issued the following statement to clarify the misinformation and set the record straight

‘Age of sexual consent, setting the record straight

We have noted with concerned deliberate misinformation of the Zimbabwean public on issues relating to sexual consent.

As the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Child Care I wish to set the record straight in respect of the issues discussed in our session.

Firstly the Parliamentary Committee did not at any point make suggestion to the effect of reducing the age of consent from 16 to 12.

In fact the suggestion was that there be an increase from 16 to 18 in line with the definition of a child provided in section 81 of the Constitution.

However, in pursuit of full realization of the right to health provided in section 76 of the supreme law, the members in the committee were of the view that the access to medical attention for sexually active minors be reduced from 16 to 12.

The intention is to allow access to sexual reproductive health to minors without hindrance of the condition of being accompanied by an adult.

We want to assure the nation that discussions will always focus on methods of protecting children as opposed to exposing them.

We however note that communication of important discussions in Parliament is still distorted by the few who have access to it,we hope that there will be investment in accessible media for the majority to watch first hand.’

Read the statement from Honourable Ruth Labode(MP) Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Child Care.