Why is the age of consent to sex 16, whilst the age of consent to marriage 18? How can the age of consent to sex be lower than the age of consent to marriage? This confusing loophole is part of the Zimbabwean constitution. What this implies is that its ok to have sex with a 16 year old girl but its a crime to marry her because she is under 18. I am failing to wrapped my head around this. If you are confused too it means you are paying attention and you are not the only one.

Mutare Central legislator Innocent Gonese recently asked the government to clarify the difference between the age of consent to sex and the age of consent to marriage.

Currently, the constitution of Zimbabwe says only those persons who are 18 years and above can be married, but however, the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act says girls at 16 years can consent to sex.

According Gonese this loophole is causing confusion because 16 year girls are getting pregnant after consensual sex but cannot marry because they haven’t reached the age of consent to marriage. He also higlighted the fact that some "influential predators" are comfortable with the law as it is because it means they can sleep around with under 18 girls and get away with it.

Said Gonese, "can the Honourable Minister indicate to us what the government thinking is relating to that age of consent because at present it is 16?

"We are in the dark as to what the government’s position is and we are all aware that there are so many people who are opposed to this amendment because they are predators.

"The biggest problem that we are confronted with is older men who indulge in sexual intercourse with young girls, which is where the problem mainly lies.

"Most of the predators are not comfortable with the raising of the age of consent because that will actually increase the number of criminal cases that will be before our courts where girls are between the ages of 16 and 18.

Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi, skirted around the question by separating the issues of marriage from the age of consent and reminding everyone that you cannot stop teenagers from having sex.

He said: "I want to thank Honourable Gonese Mr Speaker. I think it is very important to separate issues of marriage and age of consent.

"There is nowhere in the world where the age of consent to sexual intercourse is 18 years. In any event, it is very difficult to stop those teenagers from engaging in sex.

"What we are doing is; we need to separate issues of marriages that come with certain responsibilities with an age where a teenager can consent voluntarily to an act.

"I know that already in our Act we have offences whereby if you have sexual intercourse with a young adult – it is statutory rape.

"So that is covered but what I was referring to is to streamline it and ensure that it becomes clear rather than how it is currently couched.

"We have outlawed marriages of anyone below 18 but if we have two young teenagers who are below 18, we cannot criminalise if they engage in sexual intercourse.

"My plea is, it is a work in progress; we want to streamline it and ensure that we bring it here and have a debate on how we can now look at the age of consent.

In defence of not raising the age of consent to sex, Ziyambi said that it would be a contradiction to say that 16 year olds are allowed to drive but at the same time are not responsible enough when it comes to sex.

He said, "I know Honourable Gonese is very much aware that you can have a driver’s licence at 16. So you must also appreciate that on one hand, you must say that somebody is responsible for his/her actions when he/she is driving at 16.

"On the other hand. You say he/she is not responsible for his/her actions in engaging in sexual intercourse – it is contradictory.

"So, we must separate issues of marriage which we said is 18 and it comes with certain responsibilities."

It is so interesting how Ziyambi feels that issues of sexual intercourse should be seperated from marriage but should be related to driving.

"Those who want to be married must wait until they are over 18 but there are certain things that we cannot control", went on Ziyambi.

"More so at 16, we agree that you can drive but if you have an accident, what do we say? I thank you."

Whatever Ziyambi was trying to say, the issue remains that in Zimbabwe you can have sex with a 16 year old girl after she agrees, but if she gets pregrant you are not allowed to marry her.


Sydney Chako

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.

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