She can’t drive, she can’t vote. . . but she can have sex!

Parents need to step up and take an active role in assisting their children to become responsible citizens if child marriages are to be curbed, child rights activists have said.

The Prosecutor General, Mr Johannes Tomana, stirred up a hornet’s nest last week when he argued that the courts have an obligation to listen to men who indulge in sexual activities with girls as young as 12, if the girls feel that they wish to start families.
These under-age girls have been forced into early sex because of poverty
The statement received widespread condemnation from society, with girl child activists arguing that his sentiments were likely to fuel the sexual exploitation of the girl child by creating defence mechanisms for sexually perverted minds. [READ MORE: Age of Consent in other countries internationally]

However, sociologists believe that stakeholders must not read too much in the current interpretation of the legal statutes with its loopholes, but instead put concerted efforts in curbing the scourge.

Sociologist Ms Miriam Makono said the family is the primary organ of socialisation.

“Rather than debating on the age of consent, it should be about how the family retains its overall oversight role as the primary organ of socialisation. The obtaining religious, social and economic discourse breeds a hard to control younger generation outside the family institution,” she said.

Ms Makono said while it is morally wrong for young children to engage in sexual activities, some cultural practices such as “kuripa ngozi” have also contributed significantly to young girls indulging early in sexual activities.

Child rights activists have also argued that some of the social malpractices contributing to the scourge include juvenile delinquency, poverty and religious practices as well as outright perversion of children by paedophiles.

Technology is also exposing the young persons to pornography and other such unpalatable material, thereby contributing to their weird behaviour.

In as much as the Prosecutor General’s statements may have ratcheted up emotions among the various child activist groups, the reality on the ground is that several young children in the country are actually indulging in sexual activities as a result of various economic and social factors.

Of course this must not be condoned as it does not provide solutions for the push factors, but it is happening nevertheless.

Child activist and communications manager at Plan International, Ms Angela Machonesa, said it is undisputable that children are having early sexual debuts.

“This does not mean that they have matured. NO!

“There are so many pressures and drivers leading to this unfortunate habit among our children resulting in terrible consequences to their lives and well-being,” she said.

“Indeed parents, communities and the society as a whole must reweave the social moral fibre, engage children positively, live responsible lives themselves (as they are always a living example to their children)”.

Ms Machonesa argued that countless children in the country are getting sexually active from as young as nine.

Pamela Matangira who is now 20 years old but was 13 when she had her first child, actually believes that early sexual indulgence liberated her from the jaws of poverty.

“I stay in Kuzvinyeda section of Mbare near Mukuvisi River, and both my parents were late, so I had no one to look after me,” she said.

“When this man in his late 30s came and promised to provide all my needs, I consented voluntarily to be his sexual partner.

“Although we have since divorced, I have no bad feelings over the whole scenario since he is the one who managed to put me on this pedestal where I am now able to look after myself,” said the mother of one who now lives in Hopley, Harare.

Sad scenario indeed because Pamela is not the only one who see early marriage as an avenue out of poverty. She is a classic example of how circumstances, especially poverty, is involuntarily ushering young children into early sexual activity and subsequently early marriages.

“I became a mother soon after my Grade Seven at the age of 14,” said a mother of two who only identified herself as Elizabeth.

“I started sleeping with very much older men when I was still doing Grade Six,” said the 22-year-old with a giggle of a naughty high school girl.

She, however believes that any person’s behaviour is shaped within their own home.

“I grew up being looked after by my grandmother,” she said.

“Granny was not actively involved in my well-being as a biological parent is capable of doing, thus I became involved in all sorts of juvenile delinquencies.”

Elizabeth said she is not even aware who exactly got her pregnant as she indulged in many casual sex encounters without any form of protection.

For the young girls in the Mukuvisi river area in Harare, having sexual relations with older men has become their only way to survival.

Paedophiles have taken advantage of the desperation of these young girls to sexually exploit them.

The young girls, some as young as nine, openly indulge in sexual activities and charge as little as a dollar for a quick sexual encounter.

Another child rights activist, Mrs Nyaradzai Changamire-Hokonya, argued that the issue cannot be detached from religious paedophile tendencies being practiced by some apostolic sects in the country.

“Many young girls have been bequeathed to older man in the church through this silly religious doctrine which is believed to be sacrosanct.

“Girls are married off in this way. Parents are obligated by church doctrine not to turn down the suitor’s proposal if they simply declare that it is God’s will,” he said.

Mrs Changamire-Hokonya noted that although at a smaller scale, young boys are also being pushed into sexual liaisons with older women as a means of attaining financial support.

“While the young boys mostly require financial support from these older women, they in turn will be looking for the perceived sexual virility from these young men,” she said.

Fortunately, Government has indicated that it will soon outlaw the marriage of persons below the age of 18.

Addressing the official opening of the 23rd Session of the Junior Parliament recently, President Mugabe said parents were central to stopping early marriages.

“Government is considering aligning our laws relating to marriages to forbid the marriage of young people below the age of 18.

“I don’t know whether we can succeed, (but) I think the family, the parents will succeed much more than the Government by teaching usefulness of education to their children, that after Form Four, do some course. It’s not just going to university which is the possible root to higher development,” he said.

“This alignment (of the law on marriage) which the Government is willing to do is in sync with our Constitution.”

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa echoed the same sentiments and pointed out that child marriages are not permissible and should be reported to the responsible authorities.” Sunday Mail

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