Dilemna Of Impregnated 14yr Old
9 June 2021
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Pregnant woman

By A Correspondent- 72 year old *Gratious Bhema* fainted when she was told that her 14 year old grand daughter was pregnant.

The minor was in her custody.

Making matters worse was that her son’s daughter had been raped by her daughter’s 23 year old son.

She did not know what to do when she woke up hours later. Thanks to technology, she shared her woes on the family whatsapp group and within minutes, there were over a 100 replies.

The development divided the family.

The perpetrator was family and so was the victim

While others called for an urgent family meeting to map the way forward, others urged those on the ground to urgently make a police report as the matter was no longer within the family’s jurisdiction..

Hours of deliberations translated into days but still there was no consensus on the way forward.

A police report was made by a few of the relatives without the knowledge of the rest of the family and the matter is yet to be heard at Rusape magistrates court.

Delayed Justice

Such is the dilemma that violated minors face at the hands of their guardians where social norms and values hinder and delay justice.

The minor’s rape case is not only a breach of the basic fundamental rights of the child, but failure for those responsible for her welfare to report such cases to the police are perpetrating the abuse and lack of justice.

Under Zimbabwean law, if a girl or boy is below 16 consents to engage in the sexual act, the other person is still guilty of the separate crime of statutory rape and it is no defence to this offence that the girl or boy consented.

The maximum sentence for statutory rape is imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Under traditional and customary law, a sexual relationship between close relatives is also punishable as it falls into the category of incest.

Article 34 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child confirm that the government should protect children from sexual exploitation (being taken advantage of) and sexual abuse, including by people forcing children to have sex for money, or making sexual pictures or films of them.

It states that “all children have all these rights, no matter who they are, where they live, what language they speak, what their religion is, what they think or what they look like.”

It says the rights also exist regardless of their gender, disability, rich or poor, and no matter who their parents or families are or what their parents or families believe or do.

The Convention states that “no child should be treated unfairly for any reason and it recognises that parents are the main people responsible for bringing up a child.

“When the child does not have any parents, another adult will have this responsibility and they are called a “guardian”.

However, parents and guardians should always consider what is best for that child with the assistance of the governments.

Speak Out When Rape Happens

Addressing delegates at the International Women’s Day commemorations event in Bindura, the Women’s Action Group (WAG) Executive Director, Edinah Masiyiwa is on record saying women and girls who fall pregnant after rape have a right to access safe abortion services as well as post abortal services from health institutions.

“Children should be allowed to be children, let them grow up and pursue their dreams. Looking at Sexual Gender Based Violence, minor girls and women are being raped and we are not saying anything about it. Let’s speak up and speak out when rape happens.

“Looking at Zimbabwe’s Termination of Pregnancy Act (TOP), it allows termination of pregnancy if the pregnancy is as a result of rape. We are encouraging women and girls to go to health facilities and get assistance in the event that they are sexually abused because it is allowed by law.”

Social commentator Grace Dziva adds that the girl child must be protected at all costs and families must ensure that their best interests come first.

“There is need to do away with harmful cultural practices that deprive the girl child their basic fundamental rights because child sexual abuse has completely devastating effects.

Victims often feel significant distress and display a wide range of psychological symptoms, both short- and long-term some of which include feelings of powerlessness, shame, and distrust.”

She added that abuse may disrupt victims’ development and can result in HIV infection and other medical problems.

Health Risks

Gynaecologists note that when young girls are impregnated, they are prone to health risks arising from early pregnancy.

 The World Health Organisation reported that approximately 12 million girls aged 15–19 years and at least 777,000 girls under 15 years give birth each year in developing regions while at least 10 million unintended pregnancies occur each year among adolescent girls aged 15–19 years in the developing world.

Says the WHO:

“Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15–19-year-old girls globally.

Of the estimated 5.6 million abortions that occur each year among adolescent girls aged 15–19 years, 3.9 million are unsafe, contributing to maternal mortality, morbidity and lasting health problems.

Adolescent mothers (ages 10–19 years) face higher risks of eclampsia, puerperal endometritis, and systemic infections than women aged 20 to 24 years, and babies of adolescent mothers face higher risks of low birth weight, preterm delivery and severe neonatal conditions.”

Eclampsia refers to a serious condition where high blood pressure results in seizures or coma in a pregnant woman with preeclampsia. These seizures are not related to an existing brain condition.

Seizures are periods of disturbed brain activity that can cause episodes of staring, decreased alertness, and convulsions (violent shaking).