Shamwari Yemwanasikana, a child rights advocacy group, has welcomed a Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruling that reviewed the sexual age of consent from 16 to 18 years.
On Tuesday, the ConCourt ruled in favour of two Harare women who had challenged the 16 years age of sexual consent, saying it violated their rights.
Shamwari Yemwanasikana advocacy and research coordinator Rudo Magwanyata said the ruling was welcome but more still needs to be done to protect the girl child from paedophiles. She said:
The judgment is a call for full enforcement and harsh punishments for those found on the wrong side of the law. We continue to call for the full protection of girls.
In the event that a girl gets pregnant after being abused, there is a need for the courts to speed up such cases and allow termination of these pregnancies.
Communities play a pivotal role in influencing a decrease in child marriages.
There is a need for communities to have discussions on how teenagers have become sexually active and ways in which communities can assist in ending teenage pregnancies.
Magwanyata also called upon communities to support pregnant teenagers instead of treating them as outcasts. She said:
It is morally unacceptable for one to be pregnant at such a young age, however, it is disheartening for communities to treat teenagers who are pregnant like outcasts.
These are young girls who made uninformed decisions and carry the evidence of pregnancy with them. They need to be supported in every way possible.
Child rights lawyer Caleb Mtandwa said there was a need to raise awareness among the children, the parents and the community on the ConCourt ruling.