By Tatenda Mujeyi
The justice system has been argued incompatible to meeting the needs of children living with disabilities as challenges were envisaged in the policing and judicial at a discussion on the alignment of the Criminal Codification Act with the Age of Sexual consent in Harare today.
The realisations made at the meeting hosted by the Centre for Applies Legal Resources, CALR, in partnership with the Ministry of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs through funding from the United Nations coordinated Spotlight Initiative exposed the continued challenges faced by the disabled.
While most infrastructural systems in Zimbabwe are archaic and non compliant for the people with disability government and non state actors have sought guaranteeing inclusion of the marginalised populations.
The police system noted inherent challenges they were facing in availing efficient service to disabled, mainly the deaf as they did not have onsite interpreters to help in case filing.
“Reporting cases brought to stations by deaf children remains a key challenge as we usually do not have interpreters on each police station. This has compromised the efficient reporting and compilation of dockets at police stations.” The Police representative who opted not to be named said.
The same challenges were noted within the justice delivery system as the system could not fully cater for the needs of the deaf despite the victim friendly unit availing interpreters.
“For children it is important to note that reportage and translation of victim friendly cases is challenging as at this age children are at times not familiar to sign language, at times the family members who might be the perpetrators are familiar with the children’s communication.” The Law Society of Zimbabwe Representative said at the same meeting.
With Zimbabwe having made strides in the incorporation of the disabled through enforcement of the Disability policy, disability compliant infrastructural systems, disability representation in key government areas among other issues, it is imperative that the legislative system adopts disability inclusive approaches.
The number of victim friendly court’s which remain few, as Harare Magistrate Court only has two VFC units with the backlog on cases increasing daily as cases can not be taken to Court. The said at the training.
The meeting called for a prolonged interrogation of the issues cutting across children’s engagement in sexual activity as this had a bearing on culture, intergenerational variables, sexual health reproductive service provision, health and crime and social decadence in society.
The meeting also noted challenges in fully implementation of the law as following sexual intercourse between same age children, delays in reportage, victim friendly court case backlog, cultural practices, low rate of prosecution among other issues.
Zimbabwe seeks to align the constitution to the 2022 recommendation on setting of a minimum age of sexual consent to 18 from the previous 16 and 12 as cases of child sexual intercourse have remained high owing to poverty and hightened social decadence.