PARLIAMENTARY Portfolio Committee on Health Chairperson, Dr Ruth Labode says the committee’s plea for government to avail Sexual Reproductive Health and contraceptives to adolescents and young girls was misquoted and misrepresented.
By Michael Gwarisa
In an interview with HealthTimes, Dr Labode says her committee has always been pushing for government to consider availing sexual reproductive health services such as contraceptives to young girls and boys to avoid unwanted pregnancies and the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
“We were actually at an induction workshop in Kadoma, we have been pushing this issue from the last parliament, and the issue we were pushing even from the last Parliament was never about reducing the age of sexual consent.
“It was about ensuring that once we have realised the age of consent and the age of majority to 18 years, then the young people who are sexually active who you now call minor can have access to health services.
There is actually evidence on the ground which shows that they are not accessing health services, there is increase in teenage pregnancies and an increase in illegal abortions and the National Aids Council (NAC) is reporting new cases of HIV amongst these minors,” said Dr Labode.
The media has of late been awash with reports that the committee on health was pushing for reducing the age of sexual consent from 16 to 12, a move which has received widespread outrage from the general public, government officials among other sectors of the socio-economic fabric.
She however added that they even implored the Health and Child Care permanent secretary, Dr Gerald Gwinji to amend the Public Health Law and factor in that issue.
“We actually told Gwinji to either amend the public health act and put that law or maybe the ministry should produce a policy which allows anyone who is sexually active to access Sexual reproductive health services regardless of age, sex or creed.
“Once one is sexually active, they are no longer minors and if you bring an STD you need treatment.”
According to Dr Labode, contraceptives were not getting to those who need them the most in Zimbabwe and in this case its those who are active in sex are below the age of 18 and yet our law regard them as children.
She added that the young people are already having sexual intercourse and they fall pregnant and resort to illegal abortions. According to the UNFPA, at least 70 000 illegal abortions take place in Zimbabwe every year while 20 000 women and young girls die as a result.