Biti clarifies age of consent ruling
TENDAI Biti, who successfully lobbied for the review of the age of consent from 16 to 18 at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) has clarified last week’s ruling, saying it did not necessarily raise the age of consent to 18.
Speaking at a Press conference organised by Veritas yesterday, Biti said government should craft a law to protect children from sexual exploitation, adding that this could only be done by enacting a proper Children’s Bill within the next 12 months.
“When we argued this matter, we argued that we need a comprehensive Act to protect children from sexual exploitation and protect them from child marriages since the Marriage Bill hasn’t been signed into law” Biti said.
“The ConCourt set aside section 70 of the Criminal Law… to allow the government to come up with a comprehensive Bill. This does not mean at the present moment men can sleep with 16-year-old girls. If they do, I think they can be charged with actual rape. This judgment has given the government leave to come up with a comprehensive child protection law in the next 12 months,” Biti said.
In 2016, the ConCourt outlawed marriage before the age of 18 following a challenge to provisions of the marriage law that allowed child marriages.
In the latest case, Biti argued that it was unconstitutional that children could not be married until they attain 18 “yet the law allowed them to be abused from the age of 16”.
Statistics from the United Nations Population Fund state that Zimbabwe has a high adolescent fertility rate of 108 per 1 000 among young women aged 15 to 19.NewsDay.