“Age of consent: my body, my rights”, “Rights have no age” and “#Sex happens” were some of the creative advocacy messages that young people came up with during the pilot training on an age of consent advocacy manual that took place in Harare, Zimbabwe.
As part of the All In partnership to end adolescent AIDS, UNAIDS and the PACT, a global coalition of 25 youth-led and youth-serving organizations and networks working on HIV, developed a comprehensive advocacy manual on age of consent policies that relate to the sexual and reproductive health and rights of youth and adolescents. The manual seeks to provide youth advocates with the skills and information they need to respond to legal barriers, specifically age of consent laws and policies related to sex, HIV and sexual and reproductive health services.
As stated in the UNAIDS Prevention gap report, “In many settings, parental and other third-party consent requirements for access to HIV and sexual and reproductive health services remain an important barrier to their uptake. Adolescents often are reluctant to seek services that require the consent of a parent or guardian. Similarly, laws that restrict people’s access to health services—for example, by requiring third-party authorization for accessing sexual and reproductive health services or by criminalizing certain consensual sexual behaviours—exclude people from the health information and services they need”.
The piloting of the manual in Zimbabwe was facilitated by Youth Engage, a youth-led advocacy organization that brought together 25 youth advocates from diverse backgrounds.
Young people, with support from the National AIDS Council of Zimbabwe, are now mobilizing and preparing for a dialogue with parliamentarians to discuss the age of consent laws on marriage, sex and HIV testing in Zimbabwe and young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.
The manual will soon be piloted in India and will become a key resource for advocates to challenge legal and policy barriers that pose obstacles for young people’s access to HIV and sexual and reproductive health services all over the world.