Outrage over lowering sexual health services consent age

The parliamentary portfolio committee on Health and Child Care is advocating for the lowering of age reproductive health services consent to 12 years as a way of curbing the rise of new STI and HIV infections and unplanned pregnancies among minors.

This comes after reports emerged that the committee has suggested lowering the age of sexual consent to 12 years during their meeting in Kadoma, sparking outrage from parents and guardians who felt children are being stripped away of their rights to be children, thus such was not supposed to be discussed in the first place.

Responding to the outrage and confusion surrounding the matter yesterday, Child care and committee chairperson Ruth Labode said the committee did not make suggestion to the effect of reducing the age of consent from 16 to 12, but discussed about minors’ access to health services, while maintaining and pushing for the age of sexual consent to be pushed up from 16 to 18 years.

“ln pursuit of full realisation of the right to health provided in section 76 of the supreme law, the members in the committee were of the view that the access to medical attention for sexually active minors be reduced from 16 to 12,” Labode said. “The intention is to allow access to sexual reproductive health to minors without hindrance of the condition of being accompanied by an adult. 

“We want to assure the nation that discussions will always focus on methods of protecting children as opposed to exposing them.”
The explanation by the committee has however left others confused on how they plan to implement the policy whereby a 12year old can access reproductive health services yet legally, they are deemed to be under age to consent to sex.

“Of interest in what Labode is saying is the implementation of that policy suppose it’s passed. Will they realign the Sexual Offences Act as well?” said one parent, Lucy Moyo. Social commentator Rebbecca Chisamba said there is nothing wrong with equipping minors with sex education as it will inform them to act wisely, but said 12-year olds are still too young to be subjected to family planning methods decisions.

“I have nothing against sex education in schools since this is not  new, as back in the days girls and boys used to be taken and taught about issues surrounding their sexual health,” Chisamba said.
“However it remains cumbersome for us to expose these minors to complex issues like family planning decisions, the most important thing is to equip them with education that they are informed about health problems that are likely to surface when they indulge in sex before maturity age.”  

Meanwhile, the government is in a fix on how to address child marriages as existing laws permit sex at 16 while the Constitution prohibits the marrying of children under 18 years of age.


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