Child prostitution a foe to humanity
By Charity Ruzvidzo
Harare – The Zimbabwean government has set up a taskforce to specifically address child prostitution, a situation which has led to high rates of unwanted pregnancies, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases and high school dropouts.
This follows reports that children as young as nine years old are engaging in sexual activities in exchange for money in places such as Epworth, Hopley and Caledonia, which are settlements dotted in and around Harare..
Speaking at the national dialogue on child prostitution meeting in Harare recently, the provincial social welfare officer, Susan Ngani, said child prostitution robs the country of its future economic, social and political drivers.
“It is unfortunate to find that we have older men who sexually exploit younger girls. The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare took upon itself to investigate and discover that there were children at risk of sexual exploitation at Hopley and Epworth. Early this month 54 girls aged between 11 and 19 years were removed to places of safety,” she said.
Ngani said the ministry, in partnership with non-governmental organisations, was working to restore the lives of the young girls.
“The girls are currently receiving counseling and medical assistance. The Zimbabwe National Council for the welfare of children has vowed to assist those of school going age with school fees for the coming term,” she said.
The permanent secretary for Public Service Labour and Social Welfare Ngoni Masoka said setting up a taskforce to address child prostitution will map the way forward on how to curb the practice.
“We need to stop this behaviour where young girls are exploited for sex. It is our mandate as the ministry to ensure that people, especially young girls, are protected and safe. The taskforce we are setting up today will come up with ways to ensure child prostitution ends and how to deal with children who have faced sexual exploitation,” he said.
Masoka urged every Zimbabwean to assist the taskforce. “The young ones are the future so we need to safeguard them. Let it be everyone’s obligation to assist in one way or the other in fighting abuse of young girls,” he said. Social commentators have attributed the rise in child prostitution to various economic and social challenges.
“Some of these victims are orphans who do not have any guardian to take of them. As a means of survival they decide to engage in sexual relations with older men for money. In some cases, parents force their children to older men,” said social commentator Marble Bhebhe.
Childline Zimbabwe, a child rights organisation for children under the age of 18, recorded 609 480 calls last year.
Sexual abuse was the most pertinent issue on these calls.
According to Real Opportunities for Transformation Support, an organisation involved in the fight against child prostitution, there are at least 2000 underage girls involved in commercial sex work in Zimbabwe.
In 2003, a report by the UN Commission on Human Rights identified South Africa as a market for children sold into prostitution from Africa, Europe and the far East.
Other African countries have also recorded cases of child prostitution with poverty being the major driver.