Children Under 18 To Be Protected From Sexual Predators: Government

GOVERNMENT is set to get tough on paedophiles with perpetrators facing prosecution for having sex with children under the age of 18 years.

Cabinet yesterday approved the proposed amendment of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act to criminalise having sex with a child who is 16 years of age as it seeks to protect children from sexual exploitation in line with the Constitution..

While the Constitution defines a child as anyone below the age of 18, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act identifies a child as anyone below the age of 16.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi yesterday presented the proposed amendments to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act before its adoption.

In his post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere said the intended amendments will align the law with the Constitution.

“Section 81(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe defines a child as ‘every boy or girl under the age of 18 years’ and further provides for freedom and protection of children from all forms of sexual exploitation.

“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 years,’” said Dr Muswere.

“The implications of Section 61 of the Criminal Law (Codification Reform) Act is 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 of Zimbabwe which defines every boy or girl below the age of 18 as a child.”

Dr Muswere said Cabinet approved the need to amend the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act by incorporating the Constitutional definitions of a child and provisions on marriage.

He said the law will further protect adolescents who engage in consensual sex as their behaviours may not be considered predatory or exploitative.

“Furthermore, that provisions for compliance with the Constitution be made for all sexual offences on sections 70, 76, 83 and 86 of the Act. The amendment proposes that provisions be incorporated in the Act which define the close in the 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,” said Dr Muswere.

He said consultations conducted recommended a three years age difference for this purpose.

Dr Muswere said the proposed amendments will remove the discretionary powers of social workers in recommending the prosecution of minors having sex within the accepted age gap.

The minister said power would now lie with the Prosecutor General who has the authority to decline prosecution in criminal cases.

Dr Muswere said the law will further provide protection for children with disabilities.

“To eliminate predatory and exploitative sexual conduct, the Bill will provide for the protection of children living with disabilities and those with unique communication needs and who rely on a special sign language for communication which is not classified as official sign language,” he said.

“The 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.” Chronicle

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