HARARE - Samuel Nyarenda, the incoming child president, has urged the government to weed out criminals who abuse children in the name of religion.
Speaking at a swearing in ceremony held in Harare yesterday, Nyarenda urged government to act decisively on child abusers.
“Religion must never be used as an excuse for camouflaging criminals.
“We are tired of criminals hiding behind religion and ignorance, while we watch.
“May the government please do something about this. The uncomfortable truth we must face today is that a 13-year-old is tossed into a union with a man old enough to be her father and she must be ready to have sexual intercourse…
“Custodians of the law must stand up and put a stop to this,” he said.
Nyarenda, a Form Three student at Mazowe Boys High School in Mashonaland Central province was recently elected as the child president after amassing 48 votes, beating nine other contestants.
He urged the responsible authority to simplify the law and make it clearer, so that it is understood by every child.
Nyarenda’s sentiment comes after prosecutor general Johannes Tomana reportedly said that girls at the age of 12 are old enough to consent to sexual intercourse.
The statement has since been denounced by children’s rights organisations.
Addressing the gathering that was attended by President Robert Mugabe and several senior government officials, Nyarenda said according to Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund), more than 700 women were married as children in Sub-Sahara Africa.
He also said that more than one in three was married before the age of 15, adding that Sub-Sahara Africa had the highest rates of child marriages in the world.
Nyarenda said according to marriage statistics in Zimbabwe, in Mashonaland Central province, 50 percent of the girls were marrying before they experience adulthood, while Mashonaland West is at second place with 42 percent and Masvingo with 39 percent.
Nyarenda said that child marriages were prevalent in areas where the literacy rates are low, adding that marriage was becoming an alternative for school drop-outs.
“This is compromising our once shining 98 percent literacy rate and this is a threat to our poll position in Africa,” he said, adding that there was a close relationship between education, infant mortality, maternity mortality, poverty and child marriages.
“…this linkage of issues affecting our peers needs to be interrogated,” he said.
He told the gathering that cultural practices were also contributing to child abuses.
“…it is worrisome that these harmful practices remain prevalent in our nation therefore, as young people we ask the government to help us curb these horrendous practices,” Nyarenda said.