The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Bill to protect children’s rights approved

- Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter

CABINET yesterday approved principles to the Criminal Law (Codificati­on and Reform) Amendment Bill that will criminalis­e sexual activity with a child below the age of 18 as the Government seeks to harmonise laws relating to age of sexual consent.

While the Constituti­on defines children as those below the age of 18, the Criminal Law (Codificati­on and Reform) Act defines a young person as one who is below 16 years thereby creating a gap in the law which would possibly expose children above 16 to sexual exploitati­on.

Raising the age from 16 to 18 years is also part of Government’s alignment with the Constituti­on which defines a child as someone aged 18 years and below.

This was said by Informatio­n, Publicity and Broadcasti­ng Services Minister, Dr Jenfan Muswere, while delivering a post-Cabinet briefing yesterday.

He said the Bill, which was presented by Justice, Legal and Parliament­ary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi seeks to address the rights of children as enunciated by the Constituti­on.

“The nation is informed that Section 81 of the Constituti­on of Zimbabwe addresses the unique needs and the best interests of children in addition to rights and freedoms afforded to all citizens in the Bill of Rights,” said Dr Muswere.

Section 81(1) of the Constituti­on defines a child as every boy or girl under the age of 18 and further provides for freedom and protection of children from all forms of sexual exploitati­on,” said Dr Muswere.

Section 61 of the Criminal Law Codificati­on Reform Act, under Part 111 of Chapter V (Sexual Crimes and Crimes Against Morality) defines a young person as a boy or girl under the age of 16.

Dr Muswere said the implicatio­ns of Section 61 of the Criminal Law (Codificati­on Reform) Act are that it creates a category of children, those between 16 and 18 years of age, in relation to sexual offences who do not enjoy the same protection as afforded to all children as intended by Section 81 of the Constituti­on that defines every boy or girl below the age of 18 as a child.

He said the proposed Bill will incorporat­e the constituti­onal definition­s of a child and provisions on marriage.

“The amendment proposes that provisions be incorporat­ed in the Act, which define the close in age gap between minors and/or an adolescent to avoid criminalis­ing consenting minors or a minor and an adolescent whose age range cannot be considered predatory or exploitati­ve.

“Consultati­ons conducted recommende­d three years age difference for this purpose,” said Dr Muswere.

There will be a clause that removes discretion­al powers of a social worker of recommendi­ng the prosecutio­n of one of the minors who have consensual sexual activity. The amendment proposes that the

discretion should lie with the Prosecutor-General who has the power to decline prosecutio­n in criminal cases.

There will also be a clause that will protect children with disabiliti­es and those with unique communicat­ion needs to eliminate predatory and exploitati­ve sexual conduct.

Such provisions will include interpreta­tion of such unique sign language that may aid in adducing evidence in court and not limiting sign language to official court sign language only as admissible.

Responding to questions, Minister Ziyambi said the Bill seeks to comply with a High Court ruling which said a child must be someone whose age is 18 years old.

He said the Bill will outlaw marriage of people below the age of 18.

“What the Bill seeks to achieve is to harmonise all marriage laws. No marriage can be there if you are below the age of 18 years. What it means is that all the children are now covered,” said Minister Ziyambi.

Attorney-General, Mrs Virginia Mabiza, said the Bill was guided by what was in the best interests of a child.

“The Bill is mainly concerned about what is in the best interest of a child,” she said.

The Bill, said Mrs Mabiza, will confer discretion­al powers on whether to prosecute two minors who would have been involved in consensual sexual activity given that the Constituti­on designates discretion­ary powers to prosecute on the Prosecutor-General.

Dr Muswere said Cabinet had also approved principles of the Climate Change Management Bill which was presented by Environmen­t, Climate and Wildlife Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu.

He said the Bill will provide for the national climate change response through integratio­n of climate change mitigation and adaptation actions in developmen­t planning and budgeting processes.

“The proposed Bill will provide for the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, facilitate low carbon developmen­t technologi­es and carbon trading as well as putting in place measures to reduce the use of ozone-depleting substances,” he said.

It will also create obligation­s for the public and private sector stakeholde­rs to collect, archive and share activity data that is used in the compilatio­n of national greenhouse gas inventorie­s, climate risk and vulnerabil­ity impacts.

Said Dr Muswere: “The Bill will also provide for the establishm­ent of the Designated National Authority (DNA) and the National Climate Fund to support the implementa­tion of climate change adaptation and mitigation actions provided for in the National Climate Policy.

“The Fund will be financed by a percentage of the proceeds from carbon credits trading, the fiscus, and multilater­al climate finance mechanisms, such as the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund among others.”

Responding to inquiries from journalist­s, Tourism and Hospitalit­y Industry Minister Barbara Rwodzi said Zimbabwe’s position on the use of fossil energy, emissions of gas and other related issues will be made known at the Conference of Parties (COP) to be held in Dubai.

“But what I can say it was agreed that developed countries should provide money for developing countries to stop using fossil fuel,” she said.

 ?? ?? Dr Jenfan Muswere
Dr Jenfan Muswere

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