Published On: Sun, Nov 20th, 2016

ZIMBABWE : Poverty-hit girls as young as 12 turn to sex work

 CHILD rights activists have challenged the government to consider free education for some children also ensure that poor families are supported, especially by proving them with food.

This follows reports that girls as young as 12-years-old are engaging in sex work in Harare’s Hatcliffe Extension suburb, often with men old enough to be their fathers.

So desperate acre the young girls that most charge as little as 0.50 c or $1 for a sex session. Most have been forced to drop out of school due to lack of school fees. With parents unable to get jobs they end up on the streets to help feed their starving families.

Child rights lobby group Real Opportunities for Transformation Support (ROOTS) director Beatrice Savadye said the issue of “poverty needs to be addressed at a macro level”.

“The government must create employment, address corruption and make sound budgetary allocations that ensure women and girls have access to resources for education and livelihood.

“This will also reduce household poverty which will give girls increased life choices and options other than sex work,” she said.

Hatcliffe residents who spoke to this publication said most parents living in the suburb survive on vending and are failing to send their children to school.

“What makes the situation even worse is the brewing and selling of illicit beer which is rampant there and it’s so cheap and the juveniles openly buy and drinking it,” said Mary Zengen a pensioner.

“It seems the parents have also surrendered to fate as poverty is driving their children into this (sex work).”

Older prostitutes vow action

An elderly sex worker who preferred to be called Paida said women engaging in sex work in the suburb have formed an ‘association’ and are planning to approach the police to have all men abusing the young girls be arrested.

She insisted that they were not driven by the impact of child sex on their own business, saying “prostitution is for old women”.

“I will never allow my children to engage in sex work because they want to look after me. We should be giving them pens not penis, education not ejaculation.”

Paida added that the money the young girls are charging (50c or a dollar) does not make “business sense”.

“Here the agreed fee is a minimum of $5 but these men after abusing the young girls after buying them kachasu,” she said.

Activist Judith Chiyangwa who is the director of Girls Legacy said there unless parents and guardians get jobs, the problem would likely worsen.

“Yes it’s an uphill task (job creation) but its needed,” she said.

“Many of these children are left alone by their parents and guardians as they leave to look for greener pastures, either outside Zimbabwe or kunokorokoza.

“They leave barely enough money or none at all for the kids to survive which forces the girls to for alternative sources of income.

“We should unleash the police in these areas and arrest all perpetrators engaging underage girls for commercial sex work and bars and beer halls that allow them in.”

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