The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, Dr Ruth Labode has disputed claims that it is proposing to reduce the age of sexual consent from 16 to 12 years.

Claims have been awash on social media to the effect that there is a proposal to reduce the age of sexual consent but the Portfolio Committee has jumped in to clear the air, highlighting that the people who circulated the message misconstrued the panel’s drive to reduce the age of consent with regards to access to health services not sexual approbation.

“We had a meeting recently in Kadoma where we discussed young people’s access to health facilities. Our proposal to the Permanent Secretary of Health, Dr [Gerald] Gwinji was that, since we are 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. A 16-year-old is a minor, she cannot, for instance, get contraceptives or get STI treatment without her parents. We cannot run away from the fact that young people are having intimate relations at the age of 12-16, but these children do not have access to health facilities when they have diseases. Last year, a total of 400 grade seven students did not sit for their examinations due to pregnancy and that is a worrying issue. The committee never said anything about reducing the age of consent, we actually support calls to raise it from 16 to 18. Implementing a law that gives a 12 year old sexual consent is against our tradition and no mother will ever accept her child is having sex,” Dr Labode said.

According to the committee, Zimbabwe will not achieve its zero mortality goal if children 16 years old and below, who are sexually active, have no access to health facilities.