Survivors of sexual exploitation speak

By Providence Maraneli

CHILD sexual exploitation has become a major source of worry in various communities across the country with the boy child not being spared.

An Umzingwane based teenager, Bongani Ncube, (not his real name) is a victim of aggravated indecent assault.

His is a sad story which has been bottled up until he had an opportunity to open up after a visit by officials from the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, which is on a fact finding mission.

“I was with my sister and the perpetrator, he then sent my sister to get water and when we were left alone he sodomised me. I screamed and my young brother came to the door and he called me and the perpetrator threatened me that if I continued crying he would kill me . When my parents came, he threw me through the window and told me to keep quiet,” narrated Bongani.

For Bongani, there might be some form of closure since the perpetrator was jailed for the offence, but this is not the case for others like Memory Nyathi (not her real name), who is pregnant and has been abandoned by her teen boyfriend.

“I was 14 and my boyfriend was 19 and when I got pregnant he denied responsibility. My parents did not want him to get arrested so they had a meeting with his parents and they agreed that once I give birth they will look after me but my boyfriend doesn’t want anything to do with it,” she said.

Traditional leaders are also concerned about the increase in cases of child sexual exploitation, hence calls for stiffer penalties on perpetrators.

“We as traditional leaders are worried over the increase in child marriages and at times parents ignore these issues and it is killing children, the old aunts and grandmothers should take a role in fighting this,” said Chief Gwebu.

The Deputy Commissioner of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, Mr Obert Machalaga urged communities to be pro-active in fighting the social vice.

“From this session, we noticed that there are a lot of sexual exploitation and child marriages here , and as such we encourage the communities to take active roles . Cases like rape and any of such involving minors should not be talked over by families they should be reported,” he said.

According to the 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 26 percent of girls and 4 percent of boys were married before the age of 18.

However, girls from rural areas are twice more likely to be married before the age of 18 than their urban counter-parts.