Last week, the Minister of Health and Child Care, David Parirenyatwa (pictured) expressed concern over increased cases of unwanted pregnancies and abortions among youths in the country.
He said unintended pregnancies were very high among youths between the ages of 17 and 24, girls who would either be in high school or at university. He however could not give a figure.
“We also know there is quite a high degree in terms of abortions in the country,” Parirenyatwa said. “We do have unintended or unwanted pregnancies below that age . As a ministry, this is not acceptable to us. We want to fight under-age sex.”
Abortion in Zimbabwe is only legally permissible on three grounds, namely when one is raped, in case of incest or if the pregnancy can endanger the health of the woman.
Parirenyatwa also attributed increased unwanted pregnancies to an upsurge of cases of child abuse countrywide.
“As a ministry, we are also fighting very vigorously against sexual abuse of children.”
Parirenyatwa said the average age of sexual debut in this country was 15 years and nine months.
But sexual and reproductive health specialist, Caroline Maposhere said: “Officially, most girls become sexually active between the age of 15 and 16 but anecdotally, it could be as young as 12 years, which is too early.”
Maposhere said children begin their menstrual period in Grade 5 or 6, which means from that age, they start to be sexually active.
“The problem is that parents do not want to admit their children are doing it and when they read such articles, they dramatise,” she said. “They put their heads in the sand like an ostrich. It is denial and they do nothing to try and find out the truth.”
Parirenyatwa said the age of consent in the country was 16 years and “at that age you can give them contraceptives legally”.