The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care (PPCHCC) has disputed claims that it called for the age of sexual consent to be reduced from 16 to 12 years.
Dr Ruth Labode, the Committee chairperson says Go Zim misunderstood the committee’s drive to reduce the age of consent when it comes to access to health services, not sexual consent.
The Committee asserts that it supports the current push towards aligning the age of sexual consent, currently 16 years, with the age of marital consent, which is 18 years in line with the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Labode is quoted as saying:
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.
On January 2016, a Constitutional Court ruling effectively set 18 as the minimum age of marriage.
Nevertheless, the Criminal Law Codification Act sets the age of sexual consent at 16 years. This means 16-year-olds can still have sex, even though they are not allowed to get married.
Calls have therefore been made since 2016 to have the age of sexual consent aligned to the age of marriage consent.
The PPCHCC is calling for access to health care for sexually active persons below the age of 18 years, who currently require parental consent to access sexual health services.