Health sector stakeholders and lawmakers say the Medical Services Amendment Bill sponsored by the Ministry of Health and Childcare will deny orphans access to health care services if it is passed into law in its current form.
The Government is working on the Medical Services Amendment Bill to align the law to the constitution.
The Bill has a clause that says children under the age of 18 cannot access health services without their parents or guardians.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) executive director Calvin Fambirai had this to say:
Criteria for the age of consent by children should be based on the best interests of the child principle.
It was also proposed that if parents or guardians were not in a position to grant such consent, there must be a provision in the law to bring in specialists (doctors, social workers, psychologists etc).
Bulawayo proportional representation MP Jasmine Toffa (MDC Alliance) said some parents are working outside the country. Said Toffa:
In most cases, young children are from different environments. Some parents are working outside the country.
Some children may indulge in sexual activities and you find that the child is sick and they have to go through their mother or guardian in order for them to access health services.
You know what our culture is like, children can’t even face their parents to tell them that they have an STI [sexually transmitted infection.
So if children can access health services, this can go a long way in helping them and improving health services.
Zimbabwe has an estimated 1.7 million orphans.
Advocacy Core Team co-ordinator Diana Mailosi said professionals at healthcare institutions should provide services to children without their guardians.
Legal think-tank, Veritas said that certain provisions of the Bill are not clear at all. It said:
The Bill also defines the terms ‘basic healthcare’ and ‘reproductive healthcare’, which are not used anywhere in the Bill or the Act.