No to age of consent reduction

In Zimbabwe, the public health system is the largest provider of health-care services, complemented by church-run hospitals and healthcare delivered by non-governmental organisations (NGOs). In recent years, economic decline and political instability have led to a reduction in healthcare budgets, affecting provision at all levels.

It’s tragic to know that our Health and Child Care parliamentary portfolio committee has been discussing cutting the age of consent from 16 to 12 while the nation continues to bear heavy burden preventable diseases such as HIV/Aids, malaria, tuberculosis and other vaccine-preventable diseases, diarrhoeal diseases and health issues affecting pregnant women and neonates. 

The country’s health sector is currently facing numerous challenges: a shortage of skilled professionals and healthcare staff; an eroded infrastructure, ill-equipped hospitals and a lack of essential medicines.

Why have parliamentarians prioritised the child consent issue? Does it deserve to be a priority? 
Is it worth discussing? Does this matter fortify the spirit of ubuntu which is the pivot of our culture? 

With the HIV prevalence rate and rampant adult irresponsibility witnessed so far would you think a 12-year-old can have better self control? 

Are you not in a bid to legalise rape? Don’t you think you are making our children vulnerable to paedophiles and rapists? 
Haven’t you seen how 12-year-olds do all acts of immaturity in their seventh grade? Do you deem yourselves responsible?  
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

Much of it has been lost in the assumption that everything untraditional is ideal while everything cultural is either primitive or retrogressive; an assumption which has subsisted even decades after liberation and has successfully robbed us a wealth of wisdom. 

We have a culture of our own, unparalleled moral values, an art of living and patterns of life that are ours alone; and define our “Zimbabweanness”.  

All these splendors must be jealously preserved and developed.  We have to borrow from the first other civilisations what is good and beautiful and reject what is not suitable for us.
This amalgam of our indigenous and borrowed civilisation will give us an authentic and a new type of civilisation, corresponding to our realities.

In our setting, parenting is again perceived to take a lot of forms which are able to help the child to imbibe the cultural values of the land and also be a responsible adult. 

Though a law may not completely wipe out a behaviour, it may limit it, which is certainly desirable. Two issues here: whether early child sexuality is desirable and whether the maintenance or  raising the age of consent would do more harm than good in regards to the prevalent view in our culture on youth sexuality. 
Undeniably, what’s happening here is that attitudes of 21st century persons toward sex have shifted to a recreational view; one that sees sex as having few consequences (if any) and not putting anyone in danger. 

In effect, it is now regarded as a private affair and not having any social dimensions, which is a matter for another debate which is never true. 

The notion of sexuality being harmful is critical though. A 17-year-old can’t get a job at an abattoir because of knife-handling expertise requiring the employee being 
at least more mature mentally through advancement of age.

Is sex potentially more influential on life than handling a knife? 
Drinking alcohol is, legally, considered requiring responsibility and so the drinking age is generally 18 years and sometimes older; the same goes for purchasing cigarettes. 

Driving also cannot be done before 16 without proper education of the risks associated with driving; in a similar vein, we have widespread sex education, which is obviously not sufficient. 
Since the cultural view of sexuality (especially in this era) has shifted to see sex as harmless and even physically beneficial, it’s no surprise the question of consent age is viewed this way. 

If the consent age were to be maintained at 16 or even raised to 18, it would reflect a societal view that sexuality is something to be handled with responsibility and has its risks associated with it, and so, in a strange, indirect way, might gradually foster a cultural attitude that would reduce, to whatever extent, reckless sex that leads to unwanted pregnancies and STIs among youths.

Dear legislators, you may not be perfect parents but be real ones.  Let children be children, today’s children are tomorrow’s future and how we choose to raise them determines the outcome of that very future.

May each health and child care portfolio meeting make positive deposits in the character banks of our children. 


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