Child rights lawyer says debate on age of sexual consent must be evidence based

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By Staff Reporter

A LOCAL child rights lawyer says current debate focussing on whether to maintain the age of sexual consent to 16 or drop it to 12 must buttress their assertions with evidence.

Musa Kika, a lawyer with Justice for Children, was speaking Friday at the launch of Age of Consent, Sexual Intercourse With Young Persons and Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Care in Zimbabwe Justice for Children publication

He said it was a fact that minors below the age of 16 were already sexually active and programmes aimed at reproductive health provision must include them.

Kika said the fact the law does not penalise consensual sex among minors between 12 to 16 years created a challenge.

This he said saw the group excluded from accessing relevant health services in the false belief children were being protected from sexual exposure.

“This raises the question of access to contraceptives, termination of pregnancy, and other sexual and reproductive health services,” Musa said.

He added, “Because a child under the age of 16 years cannot consent to sexual intercourse at law, it is then presumed that a child under 16 years does not need contraceptives or other SRHS (sexual reproductive health services), which is a belief that prejudices children.

“This is because children between 12 and 16 years can among themselves have consensual sexual intercourse without offending any penal provision.”

Musa said current debate on the age of consent was not a “simplistic one”.

“For it to increase protection to children, the discourse must be evidence based, founded on the practical realities and experiences of children in our society.

“Children must no doubt to be protected from sexual exploitation and sexual predators.”

Age of consent and related issues have become a perennial subject of debate in the country.

Access to SRH, rising levels of teen pregnancies and all-time high illegal termination of pregnancies involving minors, high levels of sexual abuse and the thorny issue of child marriages have all been prominent issues in the debate.

Justice for Children has been at the forefront of child protection in the country through the provision of legal services. Legal education and through lobby and advocacy.