Adolescent Consent to Marriage and Sexual Activity, and Access to Sexual Reproductive Health
This paper was drafted by UNICEF Zimbabwe in collaboration with UNESCO, UNDP, UNWOMEN, UNFPA and the Resident Coordinator’s Office Zimbabwe.
As the Marriages Bill is debated, the age at which an adolescent should be able to consent to sexual activity, sexual and reproductive health services, and marriage, is being discussed widely. This debate is strongly influenced by societal, cultural and political factors. This paper aims to differentiate between the three types of consent. It will show why children need to be protected from marrying before they are 18, whilst recognizing that adolescents engage in sexual activity and have rights that need to be protected in that regard. Acknowledging that adolescents may engage in sexual activity, it is important to ensure their realization of sexual and reproductive health. The protection of girls and boys from sexual violence needs to be carefully balanced against their right to human dignity, privacy and health services.