The Parliament has recommended that the age of criminal responsibility for children be kept at 12 as contained in the Child Justice Bill, despite reservations by some stakeholders.
Zimbabwe is in the process of crafting a new law on children’s rights, which has since gone through its second reading in the National Assembly.
A Joint Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs; and Thematic Committee on Human Rights, conducted nationwide public hearings on the Bill from 3 to 8 April 2022 in all the country’s 10 provinces.
Presenting the committees’ findings in the august House recently, Makoni South legislator, Misheck Mataranyika recommended that the minimum age of criminal responsibility be set at 12 years as proposed in the Bill.
“Despite the Bill setting the minimum age of criminal responsibility at 12, concerns were being raised that 12 years is still low,” said Mataranyika.
“Calls were being made to increase the age of criminal responsibility to meet international and regional standards.”
The committees said the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act should be amended to align with the Child Justice Act on the age of criminal responsibility.
“Government should ensure the construction of more correctional and rehabilitation centres for juvenile offenders with health and education facilities in place,” noted Mataranyika.
“Members of the Civic Society Organizations and other interested stakeholders in child rights and child welfare be included in Child Justice Committees at all levels. The Bill should have a provision that covers serious crimes like rape, murder and treason. The maximum custodial sentence for juvenile offender should be increased to 18 years, especially for more serious crimes like murder, rape and treason.”
Mataranyika said concerns were raised by stakeholders over Clause 17 which sets the maximum time limit for children to remain in police custody at 48 hours, adding the public advocated for a provision that clearly prohibits the media from covering and publishing cases of children.