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Zimbabwe’s Activists Call for Holistic Approach to Confronting Teenage Pregnancies

Between January and February, almost 5,000 teenage pregnancies were recorded in Zimbabwe and nearly 2,000 girls under 18 were married. According to the World Bank, the country’s adolescent fertility rate has been declining over the past few years, but there are concerns that the pandemic will reverse the trend. In an attempt to address the problem, MPs and civil society groups have proposed that under 16-year-olds are able to obtain contraceptives without parental consent and should be allowed access to abortion services. The age of consent in Zimbabwe is 18. The proposal was rejected by Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwe’s vice-president and health minister, who said: “Since a child under the age of 16 years cannot consent to sexual intercourse in practice, it is presumed that a child under the age of 16 years does not need contraceptives. “Emergency contraceptives would be considered a form of medical treatment and therefore individuals aged under 16 would require parental consent to access them in practice.” While Chiwenga’s words drew widespread support from Zimbabwe’s largely conservative society, where sex is a taboo subject, health workers and teachers say a solution needs to be found.