IT is quite a great relief that the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) has finally erased the enduring confusion surrounding the age of consent. It was a serious misnomer, in this day and age, to have contradicting laws speaking to the same subject such as enacting a law that allows girls to consent to sex at 16 years, and another that denies the same girls the right to marry until they are 18.
This was such a confused arrangement that one wonders why our lawmakers never bothered to right this strange arrangement all these years. Why did it take the courage and resolve of two young women, themselves victims of early marriages, to challenge this abomination in court?
This actually points to an uncaring society that does not respect its womenfolk, let alone their rights. This speaks to a leadership which is so patriarchal that it sees the girl child as sub-human.
One then wonders whether the new ruling that the age of consent is now 18 will be respected if it took this long for this abnormality to be addressed? Zimbabwe’s parliamentarians, both men and women should all be ashamed because there are very little traces of ubuthu/hunhu in them since they all failed to prioritise the welfare of the girl child in their deliberations in both the lower and upper houses of Parliament.
Honestly how can the custodians of the nation allow the girl child to be abused day-in day-out under laws they could change in just one sitting?
For generations, Zimbabwe has hardly batted an eye over the abuse of girls who have and are still being abused by being married off to very old man at tender ages. Culturally, way back, girls would even be married off at birth through some very strange arrangements such as payment for family debts.
To completely rid Zimbabwe of all these bad practices that infringe the rights of the girl child, it is critical that everyone comes on board starting at the family level where challenges are prevalent.
For instance, given the current state of the economy of Zimbabwe, it is possible that the new age of consent will hardly be respected. Poverty has long been identified as one of the driving forces behind abuse of the girl child and with poverty levels in the country at more than 70% of the population, it is futile to hope for a better future for the girl child.
However, as poor as we are, if we all unite at the family level and refuse to allow poverty to force us to make shortcuts that end up exposing the girl child to abuse, the nation will conquer. But if we assume the attitude: Each person for themselves and God for us all, then shame on us.
Unity at family level influences how society treats issues around the rights of the girl child. Some churches are abusing girls and women simply because families making up the congregations are allowing their girl family members to be abused. It is high time we all stood up for the girl child.