Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has rejected a proposal by legislators to allow young girls to access medical treatment, including contraceptives without parental consent.
Speaking as Minister of Health and Child Care in the National Assembly last week, Chiwenga said girls under the age of 16 cannot be given contraceptives as they cannot legally consent to legal sexual activity.
He asserted that if they required emergency contraceptive treatment this would require parental consent as would any medical treatment.
Chiwenga was responding to a proposal in a report tabled by the portfolio committee on Health and Child Care.
The committee, chaired by Proportional Representative MP Ruth Labode (MDC Alliance), had called for the removal of age restrictions on access to reproductive health services.
Chiwenga said the removal of age restriction for accessing reproductive healthcare services will result in moral decadence and unacceptable to religious communities in Zimbabwe. He said:
If age restriction for accessing reproductive healthcare services is removed, the interpretation is that a person who can decide when to use contraceptives also has the power to decide when they can indulge in sexual activity and also when they want to have a baby.
This will be a time bomb for immorality against the diverse cultural and religious communities in Zimbabwe and a high potential of increased burden on Government’s social security nets, where high numbers of children will be having children out of wedlock.
Chiwenga also warned of the health implications of initiating young girls on contraceptives. He said:
The anatomy of teenagers is not fully developed to be able to carry the pregnancy and its complications which include obstructed labour, obstetric fistulas, symphysis pubis diastasis and ultimately maternal death.
Early sexual debut increases risk of these adolescents to cervical cancer, sexually transmitted infections including HIV Chlamydia and gonorrhoea which have adverse effects on future fertility.
Methods of contraception are not 100 per cent effective therefore these adolescents remain at a higher risk of complications in case of unwanted pregnancies