BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
THE Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) has recommended that children below the age of 18 should be protected from participating in cultural practises of a sexual nature in local communities, which it said aroused their desire to indulge in sexual activities prematurely.
ZGC legal and investigations manager Tinashe Mazani told a virtual meeting hosted by the Zimbabwe Peace Project that the recommendation followed an investigation on the implications of cultural sexual practices on sexual and reproductive health services in communities.
The investigation was conducted following complaints by community members in 2019 that sex workers were abusing young boys who were initiated in the sexual cultural practice known as khomba in the Shangaani Culture in Chilonga, Chiredzi.
In the khomba practice, young girls and boys are taught sexual skills in preparation for adulthood.
Boys would be circumcised after the initiation.
But community members in Chilonga raised concerns that sex workers preferred young boys who would have been initiated, which resulted in a spike in cases of sexually transmitted diseases in the locality.
About 112 respondents composed of males and females, including traditional leaders and local councillors, were interviewed by ZGC.
“In principle, the khomba initiation is done for children who are above 18 in line with section 81 of the Constitution,” Mazani said.
“There should be strict enforcement of the age limit of the initiation by the local leadership. In order to avert child marriages, minors should be barred from the khomba.”
He added: “There is limited knowledge of sexual and reproductive health issues. There is need for extensive awareness, specialising on HIV and Aids in order to stop further engagement in risky sexual behaviour.”
Mazani said failure to access identity documents was a limiting factor in verifying the age of the participants.
Government, he said, through the Health ministry, had intervened to ensure safe circumcision of the boys in the Chilonga community through provision of the necessary equipment and qualified medical personnel to curb the spread of diseases.
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