AU’s Chido Mpemba hails President Mnangagwa’s stance on ending child marriages

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Writes Reginald Tapfumaneyi
The African Union Commission Chairperson’s Special Envoy on Youth, Ms. Chido Cleopatra Mpemba, has hailed the move by President Emmerson Mnangagwa towards ending child marriages.
President Mnangagwa on Friday 12th of January, evoked the presidential powers to protect children against rape after amending some sections of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on rape and indecent assault.
Speaking from Switzerland at a side event of the Davos World Economic Forum, Mpemba expressed her gratitude to the President for the move and said his effort helped realize the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage.
“As the African Union, we embrace the move as it is a positive development for the youth and children.
“Africa has been lagging in the areas of protecting young women and girls and now having the Zimbabwean President setting the pace and tone on this urgent matter deserves a thumps up,” she said.
Mpemba said records in the neighboring South Africa showed that of the many women who gave birth on Christmas Day, teenager figures were disturbing.
“145 teenagers were among the women who gave birth in South Africa on Christmas with the youngest being a 15-year-old girl and that is very disturbing as this destroys the future of our continent,” explained Mpemba.
In 2014, the  African Union (AU), launched the continental efforts to end child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and has developed various normative frameworks for the elimination of child marriage and FGM/C in Africa.
Under the new law in Zimbabwe, anyone having an extra-marital affair with a young person, including physical contact, soliciting or enticing a person below 18 years for extra-marital sexual intercourse would be found guilty and liable to a fine not exceeding level 12 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years or both.
“It shall be no defence to a charge of sexual intercourse or performing an indecent act with a young person to prove that he or she consented to such sexual intercourse or indecent act,” the new regulations indicate.
Where sexual intercourse or an indecent act takes place between young persons below the age of 18 years, whose age difference is not more than three years, no charges would be preferred.
“It shall be a defence to a charge under subsection (1) for the accused person to satisfy the court that he or she had reasonable cause to believe that the young person concerned was of or over the age of 18 years at the time of the alleged crime,” the SI reads.
The law further states that the apparent physical maturity of the young person concerned shall not, on its own, constitute reasonable cause.
It notes that a person who has sexual intercourse or physical contact with a girl below the age of 12 years would be charged with rape, while if one commits on a female or male person below the age of 12 years any act that involves penetration would be charged with aggravated indecent assault.
Anyone who has sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 12 years would be charged with rape, while engaging in physical contact with a girl above 12 years, but below 18 years, would be charged with indecent assault.