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A Hot Meal For Sex: As Child Prostitution Spreads

Sex Workers At Work

By Staff Writer

Two skantily dressed girls Wendy (15) and Natasha (13) (not their real names) pace up and down shop corridors as check out male shoppers existing the shop at the popular joint known as Chibhazi in Macheke.



The two, whom given their age and small stature one would think they should be in doors playing with their agemates as it is almost night time, are roaming the ‘streets.’
Wendy and Natasha are part of the group of ladies who are looked after by one Gogo Mamoyo, a known commercial sex worker.




The two who were forced to drop out of school as their parents could not afford to send them to school.



With no school to think about, the girls were left with no choice but to join the bandwagon of fellow girls who are engaged in commercial sex work at Chibhazi.



These young girls have become prey local farmers, farm workers and small scale miners who engage the services of these girls.



To quench their sexual desires, the local men part with US$1 for a short time romp or US$5 if they want to spend the night with a girl of their choice.



Wendy describes how sometimes business is low such that one can get one client a day and whose fee is used to pay for the meal for the day.



A plate of sadza with a piece of chicken at the joint costs US$1.



It is this plate of sadza the young girls have traded their innocence for.



The sorry situation Wendy and Natasha find themselves in is not perculiar to them as reports indicate a growing number of young girls engaged in commercial sex work.



An number of girls have been forced to drop out of school, as their families cannot pay school fees.



The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee reports that in 2019, about 60 percent of local children in primary school were forced to go back home after their guardians failed to pay fees.



Another research by UNICEF in partnership with the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency revealed that nearly 77 percent of children living in the in rural areas live in abject poverty with most not getting sufficient food.



As a result children have had to look for alternative means of survival including commercial sex work.



Sadly, statistics indicate that child prostitution aided the spread of AIDS and confirms that the disease affects younger sections of the population.



According to UNAIDS, “In 2018 a third of all new HIV cases were found in the population aged between 15 and 24, with 9 000 new cases being amongst young women and 4 200 among young men.”



Issues of child prostitution have been brought to fore at international level both as a violation of child rights and as a form of sexual exploitation of children.



Article 27(1) of the ACRWC clearly states that: States Parties shall undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse and shall in particular take measures to prevent.



Article 34 of the Convention on the Rights of Children states that, “States Parties should undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.”



Local legal frameworks also speak on child prostitution with



Section 64(1) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act) stating that ‘a child below the age of 12 can not consent to sexual intercourse’.



Section 70 (1) of the same instrument makes ‘it an offence to have sexual intercourse with a child below 16 even if they consent.’



With these legal frameworks in place it is clear child prostitution is a crime, but however the nature of the act makes it difficult for law enforcers to keep accurate statistics.



With society frowning upon commercial sex work done by older women, the same treatment is given to young girls engaged in it with some not viewing them as victims but as having made a choice to engage in it.



Sadly, the push factors behind the decisions the girls take are ignored.



The girls find themselves in a catch 22 situation as not only the society paints them with a black brush, they are also harrassed by law enforcement agents who at times demand bribes to let them free.



The girls are also taken advantage of by their clients who sometimes refuse to pay as they know they can not report them to the police.



The young girls are sometimes physically assaulted by their clients and still can not make formal reports.



With the cases of children engaging in commercial sex work on the increase there is need for a multi-sectoral approach to ensure the protection of the girls.




Not only should the society educated on how to intervene and protect girls engaged in commercial sex work but also law enforcement agents should be roped in.




Civic organizations working with young children should step up campaigns against child prostitution.



With most girls ending up on the streets as a result of poverty, there is need for Government to improve on programmes such as BEAM to ensure vulnerable children access it.



Support programmes for BEAM should also be put in place to ensure that the children have access to food, shelter, health and clothing.




In the event that law enforcement agents round up these girls, efforts should be made to reunite them with family and also ensure they get support including counseling.

Robert Tapfumaneyi