Lowering the age of consent may help minors in Africa
Lowering the age of consent may help minors lead more productive lives, according to Zimbabwe’s top prosecutor General Johannes Tomana. Zimbabwe’s age of consent is currently 16. The courts are increasingly accepting that mature minors between 12 and 16 are capable of giving consent to sexual relationships.
In an interview with the Chronicle, Tomana said.
“If young girls were to be asked what they prefer, most would say they should be allowed to have sex after turning 12.“It’s assumed that the girl child’s independent decisions start at an age that those that are speaking want to fix, but if you go out there you’ll find out that some of them may want to start out in life early,” the Prosecutor General said, speaking on Wednesday during a visit to Bulawayo.Mr Tomana says with a socio and economic environment that creates hopelessness in young girls, largely through lack of formal education, it is unfair to demand of teenagers to defer sexual encounters with men.“If you look at it, we don’t have a framework for example, where we can guarantee that all our girl children are usefully engaged before they actually get above 18 years, we don’t have that,” he explained.“We’ve nine-year-olds, 12-year-olds, 13-year-olds who’re actually not in school, who’re not doing anything for example. What are we saying to them? We say you can’t even do this [have sex], when the environment is not giving them alternative engagements? What are we talking about?“You need to be able to be holistic about it. If we educate our girl child universally up to, for example, where they get to the age of 18 in an environment where you guarantee that they’re not abused, then we’re talking. But to simply say ‘no such and such conduct’ for any girl say below the age of 16, I think we’ve not asked ourselves what we’re saying about that girl who would rather prefer to lead their life in the direction of getting married.“Should they just sit there and wait until they get to about 21 doing nothing? Is that what you’re saying? You don’t have anything that they should be engaged in while they wait to become the age. What do you want them to do because in some cultures, for example, they value marriage more than anything else because when your girl child is married, you’ve achieved what any father or mother would want to expect in their girl child.“If, for example, we’re able to marry off our child at 15 and she’s married, are you saying that should not happen even where, for example, there’s nothing else that that girl could be doing? Is that what you are saying?“We need to look at it in a very practical, wholesome way, and I think it’s important to talk to the girl child. I want to say they’re very sensible people, and I know girls develop faster than boys and they mature faster than boys.
“Are we saying we should continue talking on their behalf when they’re there? Do we just change these laws to suit ourselves and our dreams that have nothing to do with addressing the real conditions that they live in?”
“The advocacy that we’re having now is that even at 16, let’s just treat them as rape. Now, is that going to achieve the objective that we’re clamoring for the girl child?
“I think that’s the question that should be answered by everybody who’s in interested in addressing this situation and I think the girl child herself must talk.”
As Johannes Tomana fights to create practical laws and give minors more rights, feminist organizations claiming to protect the rights of minors insist on trying to take their rights away.
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