Adolescent girls barred from health clinics in Zimbabwe

Young girls in Zimbabwe face death risk during childbirth or contracting diseases due to inconsistent laws making it difficult for teenagers to access sexual-health reproductive services, Amnesty International said in a report released Thursday.

The rights watchdog said adolescent girls below the age of 16 were reportedly being barred from accessing sexual health services at clinics and shamed because of their age.

"You can't go to the clinic if you are under 16; they will chase you away and insult you," one of the girls interviewed by Amnesty International said in the report.

The group said barring young girls from accessing sexual health reproductive services makes them more vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies and at a higher risk of HIV infection.

Amnesty said it also found that there was limited guidance within related health policies to assist healthcare providers in determining whether or not an adolescent below the age of 16 is eligible for a particular sexual or reproductive health service.

Another girl similarly explained to Amnesty that because of her age she had never visited a health clinic before she became pregnant at 17.

Amnesty International's Regional Director for Southern Africa Deprose Muchena urged the government to take necessary steps to rectify the situation,

The watchdog said it many adolescent girls it interviewed were not aware of how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.

Under Zimbabwean law, the age of consent for sexual intercourse is 16, and the legal age of marriage is 18.

Zimbabwe's Ministry of Health did not offer a comment on the report.

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