Last May 7, 2018, Amnesty International warned that Article 35 of the Public Health Act Amendment Bill, as it stands now, could put adolescent girls’ health at further risk, as it implies that anyone under 18 years of age will not have the legal capacity to consent to receive health services and information. The government has been called on to repeal the colonial-era legislation to assure citizens, especially young ladies, will be able to enjoy their right to dignity and equality.
Young girls in Zimbabwe face death risk during childbirth or contracting diseases due to inconsistent laws making it difficult for teenagers to access sexual-health reproductive services, Amnesty International said in a report released Thursday.
The rights watchdog said adolescent girls below the age of 16 were reportedly being barred from accessing sexual health services at clinics and shamed because of their age.
Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa said, “The reality is that many adolescents are sexually active before they are 18 and the government must act to ensure that they can access the services and advice they need to help safeguard their health and their futures. While the age of consent provisions may be intended to protect against sexual abuse and child marriage, le that they are used to deny adolescents their rights to sexual and reproductive health information and services.”
According to demographic health data for Zimbabwe, nearly 40% of girls and 24% of boys are sexually active before they reach the age of 18. Due to taboos and shame that is often related to sex and a lack of affordable healthcare, are also making it harder for adolescents to access the information and services they need.
It is a widespread mindset and misconception that only girls who are already pregnant or married can access contraception and HIV services. Adolescent girls said they had been barred from clinics and shamed when trying to locate services because of their age.
Deprose Muchena said, “Zimbabwean authorities must create a conducive environment for adolescent girls to realize and claim their sexual and reproductive rights. Adolescents have a right to comprehensive sexuality education, which should go beyond abstinence-only approaches and challenge gender stereotypes. Our research shows that harmful gender stereotypes mean girls face especially severe consequences if they become pregnant, including forced marriages and the end of their educational aspirations.”
Although young girls in Zimbabwe are not given their rights to proper healthcare, their government should think twice. These young girls are not just a demographic of potential baby carriers or potential sexual partners; A study showed that young girls influence most young men to get circumcisions to prevent STD’s and other illnesses.
Zimbabwe’s government must think forward. A study showed how adolescent girls affect adolescent boys in getting circumcisions. It is stated in the study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, that teenage girls have a role to play in shaping the social norms that encourage teenage boys to undergo VMMC (Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision) and other HIV prevention-related initiatives. The findings were carried out between 2015 and 2016 in South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe consisted of focus group discussions with 90 adolescent girls living near VMMC clinics and in-depth interviews with 90 teenage boys who had undergone VMMC.