Zimbabwe recorded about 5 000 teenage pregnancies and about 2 000 child marriages between January and February 2021.
This was revealed by Women Affairs Minister Sithembiso Nyoni while presenting her report on the level of public service delivery related to sexual and gender-based violence during the Covid-19 pandemic in Parliament on Thursday.
Teenage pregnancies and child marriages in Zimbabwe reportedly surged since the imposition of lockdown restrictions last year.
Minister Nyoni told Parliamentarians that between January and February 5, 2021, there were 4 959 officially known teenage pregnancies as well as 1 774 child marriages countrywide. Minister Nyoni said:
A total of 4 959 got impregnated in such a short period and this means that nearly 5 000 of our girls risk losing their educational opportunity if they do not pursue re-admission.
Most worrying is the 1 774 who are in matrimonial union before their 18th birthday.
They have lost opportunities and have also become vulnerable to other forms of violence, assault, which include economic and emotional abuse.
She also observed that her ministry is putting a cocktail of measures meant to address gender-based violence (GBV).
Nyoni indicated that her ministry received a set of draft principles for the Sexual Harassment Bill and Gender Equality Bill from the Zimbabwe Gender Commission. She added:
The Bills are expected to criminalise the offence of sexual harassment and provide frameworks for gender equality. As part of the law development process, consultations are very critical and the ministry is at an advanced stage in organising consultative meetings with law based women’s organisations at national and regional levels.
Her remarks coincide with a case in which a Chitungwiza woman was arrested for having sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old boy.
Some members of the public responded with fury to reports that women cannot be arrested for rape as per Zimbabwean laws but can be charged with sexual indecency.
The lady in question has since been released on ZW$10 000 bail to the chagrin of members of the public who were arguing that the case could have been different if the perpetrator was a male.