The government of Zimbabwe has moved to protect children from predators by raising the age of consent from 16 years of age to 18. Predators who violate this law and sleep with children below the age of 18 face up to 10 years in jail.
Closing the Legal Gap
In terms of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Criminal Laws (Protection of Children and Young Persons)) Regulations, 2024 Statutory Instrument 2 of 2024, It is a criminal offence to have sexual relations with a young person under the age of eighteen whether they are female or male.
The National Prosecuting Authority will prosecute all cases involving sexual intercourse and the performance of indecent acts with young persons in terms of the said Act.
The Legal Void Exposed
Recent High Court proceedings highlighted that Zimbabwe currently has no law safeguarding and protecting children, rendering them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse from predators.
The accused, Nkosilathi Gumbo, faced charges of having intercourse with a young person under the age of sixteen, as defined in Section 70(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23].
Shockingly, this crime was committed within a legal void, revealing the absence of a protective legal framework for children.
Zimbabwe’s Law Protecting Children Struck Down: Parliament’s Inaction
The root cause of this legal vacuum traces back to the Constitutional Court’s judgment on May 24, 2022, in the case of Kawenda v Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs & Others CCZ 3/2022.
Sections 70, 76, 83, and 86 of the Criminal Law Code were declared unconstitutional, with a clear directive for Parliament to enact a new law within 12 months to protect children from sexual exploitation.
Parliamentary Failure to Act
Despite the court’s explicit instruction, the Parliament of Zimbabwe failed to enact a new law within the stipulated timeframe.
The consequences of this failure were dire, as the declaration of invalidity came into effect on May 25, 2023. Consequently, legal provisions aimed at safeguarding children were nullified, placing them at risk.
The case of Nkosilathi Gumbo exposed a significant failure on the part of the Parliament of Zimbabwe to enact legislation protecting children from sexual exploitation.
Loophole Finally Addressed By New Law
Addressing the legislative gap, the Zimbabwean government introduced a new law, closing the egregious loophole that had made the country attractive to paedophiles and predators. This decisive step ensures the age of consent is now 18, signalling a stern warning to those who seek to exploit and harm the nation’s youth.
Zimbabwe’s move to protect its children is a significant stride towards ensuring the safety and well-being of its young citizens. The introduction of stringent laws sends a clear message to potential predators that the government is committed to safeguarding its most vulnerable population.