At least 7 000 teenage pregnancies were recorded throughout the country last year as cases of child sexual abuse continue rising, a local youth pressure group has revealed.
BY MELODY CHIMHAU
Latest statistics by DOT Youth organisation indicate that teenagers were engaging in early sexual encounters and marriages with Mashonaland Central province leading the pack with 50% child marriages.
DOT Youth Bulawayo North district representative Sibusiso Bhebhe told delegates during a discussion yesterday that cases of teenage pregnancies were on the rise.
In most cases, child pregnancies had resulted in child marriages with parents playing a bigger role in fuelling the development through arranged marriages.
“Cases of child pregnancies are disturbing and, as a result, these marriages are depriving children of their rights as well as their future,” Bhebhe said.
“We need to reinforce community mobilisation and have policy awareness as this is quite disturbing.”
Speaking at the same function, Christian Legal Society of Zimbabwe leader Gerald Matiba blamed some religious beliefs for fuelling the scourge.
“We have a morally deficient society where issues of sexual activity are ignored and we allow young people to engage in sex”, Matiba said.
“Zimbabwe is part of the top countries in Africa with the highest number of child marriages and it is ranked number 30 globally.
“We have since noted that most of these child marriages are related to religious backgrounds and culture where children are being forced into marriage as a result of unwanted pregnancies.”
According to statistics, Mashonaland Central has the highest number of child marriages recorded at 50%. Bulawayo so far is said to be at 10% with child marriages mostly caused by parental ignorance and peer pressure.
A representative from the Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development ministry, Tsitsi Phiri, said affected places where child marriages and teenage pregnancy took place frequently were rural areas and squatter camps.
“It is disturbing that when we visit such places as a ministry, girls as young as 14 would be married and having children,” she said.
“When faced with that situation, it becomes difficult to reason with the child as that’s the culture that they have been raised in.
“Communities need to understand the value of marriages so that we don’t have such situations where young children engage in premarital sex.”
Last week, Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana torched a storm when he was quoted as justifying early childhood sexual encounters saying 12-year teenage girls could consent to sex.