BY PROBLEM MASAU
GOVERNMENT has hailed the Constitutional Court ruling which raised the age of sexual consent from 16 to 18.
Information and Publicity minister Monica Mutsvangwa told NewsDay that following the ruling by the court, it was now incumbent upon Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and Parliament to enact within 12 months, a law that protects children, from sexual exploitation in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
She said: “The Constitutional Court has struck some of our laws as unconstitutional. The position is aligned to government’s position which has always been that children (under 18) should not be married off. It didn’t make sense to say that a girl under 18 should not be married but can consent to sex. That position was quite incongruous. The suggestion was that it was ok for an adult to have sexual relations with 16 or 17 year olds, but it was illegal for them to marry that person. The positions have now been reconciled.”
The ruling comes as the country is grappling with teenage pregnancies that have forced a lot of girls to drop out of school.
Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) chief executive Virginia Muwanigwa said people should not view the judgment as a way to criminalise sex, but to protect under age girls from sexual perverts.
“Obviously, we welcome the judgment. One of the issues has been sexual exploitation of girls. Our only worry is that people’s interpretation of that may actually not be the right one. It will look like we want to criminalise girls having sex. The law is actually trying to protect young girls from sexual exploitation,” Muwanigwa said.
Last year, ZGC launched investigations into allegations of sexual exploitation of girls and child marriages within apostolic sects in the country.
This was after Anna Machaya, a 15-year-old girl, died while giving birth at an apostolic shrine.
Her parents tried to conceal her age through exchanging her birth certificate with that of her older relative, Memory Machaya.
Anna was forced out of school while in Form 1 in Mhondoro to get married to Evans Momberume who was arrested for the crime, but has since skipped the country.
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