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Get tougher on sexual offenders, govt urged

Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health chairperson Ruth Labode

LEGISLATORS and women’s rights groups yesterday demanded that the State should impose tougher measures to curb sexual offences as cases of child marriages and teenage pregnancies continue to rise.

Despite efforts to discourage child marriages and the fact that section 81 of the Constitution stipulates that minors must be protected from sexual exploitation, the country continues to witness several cases of young girls being married off or impregnated at a tender age.

During an advocacy and engagement meeting with legislators and women rights groups in Harare yesterday to review the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Amendment Bill, human rights organisations applauded the Constitutional Court for setting the age of sexual consent at 18.

Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health chairperson Ruth Labode told NewsDay on the sidelines of the meeting that government needs to take a strong stance against early child pregnancies.

The Bill in question seeks to provide mandatory minimum sentences for rape and alter the definition of dangerous drugs, possession and use.

“We went to Rwanda and we observed what we can call the ‘Kagame Effect’ whereby the Rwandan President Paul Kagame declared that no child will carry another child. We need to take that into consideration and it really takes a President with a backbone to implement this,” Labode said.

“We need to stop turning young girls into mothers. There is a huge need for the legalisation of safe abortions, especially for young women who have been sexually exploited.

“Most young women are unable to pursue their dreams soon after getting pregnant and as legislators we hope that amendments to the Criminal Code will bring an end to this mayhem.”

Labode expressed hope that the amendments to the Criminal Code will bring into effect more stringent measures on sexual offences.

Katswe Sistahood director Talent Jumo said: “We need to criminalise paedophilia and make sure we formulate a national offenders registry which is digitalised so that we are able to keep track of sex offenders.

“We appeal to all Members of Parliament not to miss an opportunity to act on the Constitutional Court’s recommendations and amend the age of sexual consent.”

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