When looking at the age at which one is legally regarded as having the ability to consent to sex, it usually sparks much debate and argument. It is, however, important that everyone has a general understanding of what the law provides in this regard.
Whether or not a child can consent to sex is influenced by what is legally termed the “age of consent”. What this means is that the law establishes the minimum age at which a child can be considered to have assented to having sexual intercourse with another.
In Zimbabwe, a girl is regarded to have the ability to consent once she has reached the age of 16. The law goes further to make a bald statement by asserting that a girl under the age of 12, regardless of whether or not she verbally agreed, cannot consent to sex. Any sexual intercourse that happens between a girl under the age of 12 and a man is automatically rape. This in turn means that girls between the age of 12 and 15 cannot be regarded to have the capacity to consent to sex although their being sexually active with a man does not always automatically translate to rape.
There are two focal areas of law that deal with this issue of consent; the first one being rape and the second being sexual intercourse with a young person or what is popularly referred to as “statutory rape”. One is said to have been raped if they can prove among other things that a man forcefully had penetrative sex with them without their permission. Rape can be summarised as non-consensual sexual intercourse by a male with a female. There is no age limit on who can legally claim to have been raped.