by Paidamoyo Chipunza | The Herald
GOVERNMENT has no policy that advocates provision of contraceptives to girls as young as 10 years of age and does not intend to have such a policy in the near future, Health and Child Care Minister Dr. David Parirenyatwa has said. Addressing a Press conference in Harare yesterday to clarify the distribution of contraceptives, Dr. Parirenyatwa — who was flanked by his deputy, Dr. Paul Chimedza, and permanent secretary Dr. Gerald Gwinji — said Government was guided by social, cultural and medical factors in the formulation of all policies.
“We as a Ministry of Health and Child Care, we do not have a policy that advocates giving contraceptives to under-age children,” he said.
“We are very clear about this. Clear because we are guided not only by our policy, but by the socio-cultural and medical prerogatives in our country,” he said.
Dr. Parirenyatwa said the fact that the age of majority was 18 years and that of marriage was 16 years meant that anyone below these age groups was considered under age.
He said instead, his ministry, in conjunction with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, advocates gradual sex education for children.
“What we pride ourselves in is that we give education to those children and we are in the forefront of fighting HIV and AIDS.
“If we were to advocate sex for the 10-year-olds, you can imagine how uncontrollable the pandemic would become.”
He said latest statistics showed that the age of sexual activity was 15 years 9 months for girls, although there were cases of younger girls becoming sexually abused.
He said sexual education was targeted at a particular age and was not given to all children in school.
“You do not just teach 10-year-olds what they are not supposed to know, there is a syllabus that is strict on that sort of chronology.”
Dr. Parirenyatwa acknowledged that there were high unintended or unwanted pregnancies, particularly between the ages of 17 and 24 years, and a high degree of abortions, hence the importance of talking about safe sexual methods.
In relation to issues of sexual abuse on children as well as adults, Dr. Parirenyatwa proposed setting up a multi-sectoral task force to look into all issues of concern and proffer solutions.
Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister Cde Oppah Muchinguri said giving contraceptives to children as young as 10 years was against Zimbabwean norms and values.
She said if the health ministry would have done this, it meant giving freedom to the young girls to have sexual intercourse.
“If contraceptives are given to girls as young as 10 years, it means our social fabric is at stake,” said Minister Muchinguri.