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CHILD and women’s rights activists have demanded that Prosecutor General Johannes Tomana immediately resigns or, failing that, be fired after he appeared to suggest that 12-year-old girls could consent to sex and that they should be listened to if they wanted to get married.
Tomana made the remarks in an interview with the Bulawayo Chronicle but he was beating a hasty retreat Friday after widespread outrage over the comments. Audio recordings of the interview also suggested he had not been misinterpreted.
Still, claiming his comments in the interview had been “twisted”, Tomana told state media: “When I read the Chronicle I didn’t believe it, but when I read The Herald I was shocked!
“The Herald is supposed to be the national flagship and carry Government policy in truth. It is supposed to protect Government institutions . . . it is supposed to protect the Prosecutor-General.”
He added: “That’s why the law for criminal defamation is necessary to deal with this type of behaviour.”
Rights activists called a press conference in Harare Friday afternoon to condemn the remarks.
Most said the comments attributed to Tomana were unacceptable from an individual holding his office adding he also undermined progress made in fighting the problem of child marriages.
Further, they said Tomana was contradicting his principal, President Robert Mugabe, who regularly speaks against child marriage.
The press conference was attended by representatives from various Children and Women’s rights groups, UN agencies and some government officials from the Ministry of Women Affairs.
“These are reckless personal statements that are not endorsed by the law,” said Dorothy Madzerete of Katswe Sisterhood.
“He (Tomana) takes upon himself the role of a psychologist who can say with certainty that a 12 year old is capable of consent when she clearly does not understand the development stages of a human being.
“A 12 year old is a minor who cannot decide a lot of things including which school to go, how to wash her privates and what clothes to wear. Now you want to entrust them with consent to have sex?!
Madzerete said Tomana’s remarks showed a lack of respect, not just for the laws he is supposed to uphold but also for the office of Head of State and Government.
“We stand in unity to condemn in the most serious sense the demonic statements attributed to a person whose word is even law. Every girl deserves a chance to become fully productive adult women,” she said.
Tomana was also quoted suggesting that children from underprivileged backgrounds could consider marriage to escape a life of deprivation in an economy which offers little opportunities as unemployment is said to be close to 90 percent.
But the activists said authorities should work to right the struggling economy and not sacrifice the girl child.
“We call upon those in decision making to address the socio-economic problems he (Tomana) has raised,” said Madzerete.
She also said the existing contradictions between laws and the new constitution were no helpful either.
“We call upon for the immediate affirmation by the Justice Minister that the Constitution is supreme.
“Like every child, every girl has a vision for her future and the prosecutor general is destroying it by redirecting her future towards marriage.”
She added: “Patriarchy has systematically designed marriage as an achievement and the ultimate goal for every girl child, which is ridiculous.
“We, as child rights sector, cannot intrust Zimbabwe’s law to a Prosecutor General who is intertwined in the patriarchal discourse.
“We are shocked that Tomana is supporting the many paedophiles around our children and we call for the Magistrates to henceforth desist from sentencing rapist to community services.”
Asked what they would do if Tomana ignores their call to resign, Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe chairperson, Virginia Muwanigwa, said they would definitely go into the streets to demonstrate.
“We will take to the streets because this is not just a women’s issue. We need to ensure that people recognise that is it not just the girls who are danger but it is the future of Zimbabwe,” she said Muwanigwa.
Also speaking at the press conference, the chief executive of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisation (NANGO) Cephas Zinhumwe said his organisation doubts whether President Mugabe is being advised correctly by a men like Tomana.
“He is an adviser to the President and are we saying is the President being advised well? If he is now contradicting what the President says about children,” said Zinhumwe.
“We are going to consult widely among our members to see what steps to take because for us it’s not on; because if you listen to President Mugabe he reiterated that, in no uncertain terms, child marriages are not good at all in Africa.” source-newzimbabwe