BY RUTENDO MATANHIKE
A FORMER aspiring parliamentary candidate has expressed concern that the provision of sexual reproductive health care to children under the age of sexual consent will create an avenue for sexual exploitation of the minors.
Appearing before a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care in Harare on Tuesday, former parliamentary candidate for Harare East Linda Sibanyoni said provision of reproductive health to minors can also unwittingly create a leeway for the reduction of the age of sexual consent from 16 to 12.
She was responding to calls made in March by chairperson of the committee, Ruth Labode, that reproductive health care be introduced to minors as young as 12 in order to protect them from sexually transmitted diseases.
“The move has loopholes that abusers can use in manipulating children below the age of consent. Abusers can be left to go scot-free as the minors would access sexual reproductive health care without any questioning as suggested by the statement,” Sibanyoni said.
She said the minors’ access to different forms of contraception and STI infection also exposed them to different side effects with the inclusion of different types of mental illnesses.
“Many forms of contraception and STI treatments have significant side effects including depression, anxiety, blood clots, high blood pressure, migraines and stroke, administering these types of drugs in minors without notifying the guardian or parent who takes care of them would be grossly negligent and dangerous.”
In March Labode issued a statement which argued for children below the age of sexual consent to have access to sexual reproductive health care, even in the absence of an adult to promote their health.
But Sibanyoni said allowing minors access to sexual reproductive health care without the presence of responsible adults provided a loophole to reduce the of age of sexual consent from 16 to 12.
“Allowing minors to receive access to sexual reproductive health care services without an adult responsible for them being present, I believe will pave way for the subsequent lowering of the age for sexual consent to sex from 16 to 12.
“Health practitioners have always been instrumental in assisting children to receive justice when abused, now when children without an adult accompanying them can receive access to sexual reproductive health care services; this might limit their ability to raise alarm on sexual consent abuse cases,” Sibanyoni said.
Responding to Sibanyoni, Member of Parliament for Hwange Central Constituency Fortune Daniel Molokele said the committee was more concerned on the protection of minors from sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and early mortality and that their duty was to protect their right to health.