Stricter Laws Against Child Exploitation Enforced
President Mnangagwa has utilized the Presidential Powers Act to amend the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, introducing stringent measures against paedophiles and child traffickers. Offenders now face up to 10 years in prison for engaging in sexual activities with individuals under 18, including those trafficked abroad for sex work.
The amendment addresses concerns over the age of consent, a topic that has sparked widespread debate in response to the rising incidents of pregnancies involving minors and the prevalence of sexual abuse cases.
Under the newly enacted Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Criminal Laws (Protection of Children and Young Persons)) Regulations of 2024 (Statutory Instrument 2 of 2024), the age threshold for valid sexual consent has been raised from 16 to 18 years. This move aligns with the constitutional definition of children as individuals below the age of 18, rectifying a gap in the previous law that left children aged 16 and above vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
In November of the previous year, Cabinet principles were approved for the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, criminalizing sexual activity with individuals under the age of 18. The recent gazetting of Statutory Instrument 2 of 2024 means that the endorsed amendments will not require parliamentary debate.
The Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act (Chapter 10:20) grants the President the authority to enact regulations addressing urgent situations, as well as related matters. Section 61 of the Criminal Law Code has been amended to redefine “extra-marital sexual intercourse” and replace the definition of “young person” with the age of 18.
Furthermore, Section 70 of the Criminal Law Code, pertaining to sexual intercourse or indecent acts with young persons, has been repealed and substituted to enhance legal clarity. Offenders engaging in extra-marital sexual intercourse with a young person, committing indecent acts, or soliciting such acts now face penalties of a fine up to level 12, imprisonment up to 10 years, or both.
Crucially, the Statutory Instrument asserts that consent will not be considered a defense in cases of sexual intercourse or indecent acts with a young person. The government’s proactive measures aim to protect children from exploitation and uphold the sanctity of their rights.