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Zim courts 'treat 12 as age of consent'

12 June 2015, 08:05 News24 Correspondent

Harare - Activists and a legal expert from Zimbabwe say that the courts are increasingly treating the age of consent as 12.

There's been mounting outrage this month after two men aged 35 and 29 were acquitted of rape after they had sex with a 15-year-old girl at a house in Bulawayo. Magistrate Chrispen Mberewere said the girl "did not scream" and "knew what she wanted", local media reported.

The law is not clear on the age of consent in Zimbabwe.

Although Zimbabwe's criminal code appears to set the age of consent at 16, the law only provides "absolute protection" in cases of rape to a child who is under 12, said law expert Alex Magaisa in an interview.

"If a man has intercourse with a child who is under 12, they have no defence. They cannot say that the child consented," Dr Magaisa said, speaking from the UK.

But if a child is 12 or over, it can be argued in court that she consented to sex. Then the charge is "sexual intercourse with a child, which attracts a very lenient sentence," Magaisa said.

"It's a serious problem that women have been raising for many years," he added.

Recent press reports show that when a magistrate has imposed a jail sentence on a man for having sex with a child who is under 16, that sentence has often been revised downwards on appeal. Some perpetrators get away with community service or merely have to pay a fine.

Magaisa said there needs to be a "national debate" on the issue.

Several Zimbabwean mothers and activists have taken to social media to express their "disgust" and to insist that girls aged between 12 and 16 should not be judged capable of consenting to sex.

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said in a recent tweet there could be "no extenuating circumstances" to statutory rape.

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- News24


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