Children’s rights experts call for protection of boys against sexual violence

By Tapiwa Machemedze

A STUDY on sexual violence against boys has revealed there could be significant under reporting while highlighting the need to tighten legislation in order to protect the boy child.
The poor reportage has been attributed to a number of factors which include biased focus on the girl child by institutional service providers, fear of reporting abuse cases by caregivers because of gender norms as well as fear of stigmatisation.

“We realise mostly we talk about sexual violence against girls, but we also realised sexual violence is happening against boys,” said Blessing Mutama, the Director Farm Orphan Support Trust (FOST).

“In Zimbabwe, sexual abuse against boys is real and the perpetrators include men, women and boys themselves and there is need to carry out wide awareness among communities. It also confirmed, there is a gap in terms of our legal framework, when sexual violence happens against girls the penalties are stiffer. For girls, it’s called rape but for boys it’s called assault, so most people are preferring to violate boys, so we are saying there is need for sentences given for the girl child to be the same.”

Lobby groups for protection of sexual reproductive health rights of young people called for increased awareness on the protection of the boy child.

“We are standing here on blue umbrella day, it’s the first programme we have seen where boys are standing up and amplifying voices against gender based violence, all boys are being taken up to speak out especially on issues of sexual health.

“Our young boys are being sexually exploited, even when you go to clinics you find STIs are on the increase, so we want boys to speak out when acts of sexual violence happen,” said Arab Majavala, Chisungo Men’s Network programmes coordinator.

“As Rige we are saying yes we are an organisation that is advancing the rights of the girl child but we are also supporting that there is need to protect and empower the boy child so that he is ready and able to manage an empowered girl child in our community,” said Rita Tiriboyi, Rige Trust Director.

Calls have been made to tighten legislation protecting the boy child against sexual violence with a November 2021 study by FOST Zimbabwe highlighting under reportage of cases. Global indications point to one in every six boys experiencing different forms of sexual violence.