'Child prostitution cause for concern'

HARARE - Oppah Muchinguri, the minister of Women Affairs Gender and Community Development, who has been on the forefront of fighting against  child abuse has vowed not to rest until stiffer sentences are imposed on sex predators.

Her sentiments come as 11-year-old girls are reportedly engaging in prostitution, according to a report recently published by the Zimbabwe Youth Council in conjunction with Unicef.

Entitled; Eliminating Harmful Social and Cultural Practices Affecting Children: Our Collective Responsibility, the report indicates a possible cartel that recruits young girls into prostitution activities.

This unfortunate situation has resulted in high rates of school drop outs, unwanted pregnancies and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.

Social commentators on the one hand note that these challenges are beyond the inability of parents to discipline their children, but are also linked to the economic situation in the country and lack of a clear divide between personal, economic interest and law enforcement.

The children are into prostitution for payments that are as low as a $1.

In an interview with the Daily News on Sunday, Muchinguri said her ministry had enlisted the support of traditional chiefs to raise awareness against child abuse.

“The issue is going to be discussed in Cabinet. We have an inter-ministerial committee that includes my ministry, ministries of Labour, Health and Education. We are also involving chiefs,” she said.

The ministry of Women Affairs which will strategise and conduct research on child prostitution and child abuse cases in general implored the minister of Justice Emmerson Mnangagwa to institute stiffer sentences on sex predators.

“If the country has stiff mandatory sentences for livestock theft what about those that abuse children,” said Muchinguri.

A number of policies are being formulated to make sure that children are protected at government level while churches are coming up with their policies against early marriages and other forms of gender-based abuses.

These policies are to be presented on the National Day of Prayer on October 11.

President Robert Mugabe has spoken against child abuse at rallies and other platforms and Muchinguri said there is going to be a national launch on gender-based violence where a message from the President will be presented.

The Zanu PF women’s league boss whose ministry works hand in glove with women’s organisations, will also engage the private sector in the fight against child abuse.

Childline, an organisation which advocates for children’s rights and provides a free hotline for people to report cases of child abuse, has  called for collective action by members of the public against the scourge.

“Firstly, we strongly encourage the community members to adopt the concept of Ubuntu, and ensure that each and every child in their community is being well-cared for, and not exposed to such child rights violations as child prostitution or child labour,” Childline director  Tara van der Riet said.

“We need to work together as mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles to make sure that all children in our community are being given the best care they deserve, and where we see this is not the case, we need to take urgent action and report the concerns to Childline via 116 (anonymously if need be), or to the Victim Friendly Police Unit, or to the nearest Department of Social Welfare,” Van der Riet added on.

She said if the community members do not start to take a stand against child prostitution and child labour in communities, we will continue to allow this violation of child rights to continue and it will grow worse.

Childline is currently supporting the government authorities on a daily basis to respond to problems associated with child abuse.

The organisation cites poverty as the root cause of most child abuse cases.

“Until the economic circumstances in Zimbabwe improve the root cause of such child welfare concerns will continue, as desperate children and families search for any means of survival,” said Van der Riet.

However, government authorities are overwhelmed with trying to respond to the number of children with welfare concerns in the country.

Over 1,2 million orphans are reportedly in Zimbabwe, and recent national studies show that one in three girls is raped before her 18th birthday, according to statistics made available by Childline.

Organisations working with children’s welfare need to support government authorities to increase capacity to respond and ultimately provide prevention services at community level.

Childline has also called for an increased allocation of the national budget to child welfare in Zimbabwe to allow the authorities to have better resources to detect early, respond timely and ultimately prevent child abuse in Zimbabwe.

However, the Childline director said there is limited research available on the “push” factors of child prostitution.

Data collected from children’s views and their wishes gathered through the 116 helpline shows that children are vulnerable to child prostitution because of their extremely impoverished circumstances.

The majority of children counselled by Childline revealed they fell prey to this “form of child labour”  for commercial exploitation because of poverty.

In most instances, it was an adult who forced the child into prostitution and the children’s organisation often found out  that it was a female adult who had forced young girls into prostitution.

“More recently, Childline is witnessing young teenage girls entering into sexual relations with older men with the promise of their school fees being paid. The desperation of these young girls to complete their education leads them into child prostitution,” Van der Reit said.

Angela Machonesa communications manager at Plan Zimbabwe said; “Child prostitution is taking place in urban centres, transitional towns and resource rich towns. The same is also happening in Borrowdale and Mufakose due to juvenal delinquency some children can just do it for fun while some are driven by desperation due to economic challenges.”

Machonesa said peer pressure from one strongly-opinionated child leader in a group or adults fuelled child prostitution.

Children as young as 11 are engaging in prostitution owing to a number of factors with orphans and those who live with disabled parents and orphans being the most vulnerable.

The child rights activist called on government to introduce  stiffer penalties in order to deter would-be offenders.

“The police should be vigilant and keep watch over lodges, bars and other places that are frequented by perpetrators of child prostitution,” Machonesa said adding that; 

“Reports that children as young as 10 years are engaging in prostitution to supplement for food and other necessities is disturbing and a wake-up call for communities and authorities to act.”

Comments (3)

In general prostitution is morally and ethically incorrect and child prostitution is cruel to say the least.However,it is not enough to speak out against it and throw people into prisons about it.If we are serious about it then we should address the root of the problem!What is the root cause?Eliminate that and in that one stroke child prostitution is eliminated too.

Godfrey - 2 May 2014

generally l would just want to advice the minister that it will not be that helpful if they only teach this in towns what more about the rural areas. I recommend that girl-child in rural areas is not given full human rights as some of them are forced to get into marriages at the age of (12)take for example there should be more teaching about child abuse in rural areas than in city centers. im seeing the impact of what you are saying only in towns.what more about rural areas consider them.conclusively since the implementation of Zimbabwe's gender policy not much has been done to archive its goals. There is still a lot of work needs to be done to fully archive the goals of Zimbabwe's' Gender policy.wish to see your respond thru my email towards this. thank you

Bunhu Terence - 12 May 2014

Arresting the perpetrators of this unfortunate situation is somehow missing the point. The root cause of all this mess in the country is economic hardships, people are suffering out there, having no food to put on the table, no clothes to cover themselves all because of unemployment. I'm sure if the government readdress its economic structure there will be no cases of child prostitution in Zimbabwe again. Lets work together guys towards this sad incident.


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