Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Feature
A 17-YEAR-OLD physically challenged girl from the Datata area in Gwanda recently reported that her 16-year-old brother and his age-mates raped her several times.
The girl later fell pregnant but lost the baby at seven months.
In another incident, DNA tests revealed that the father of a child born by a nine-year-old Tsholotsho minor is the girl’s 13-year-old cousin.
An eight-year-old girl from Bindura fell pregnant last year after being raped by two 17-year-old boys. The girl recently gave birth through a Caesarian section at Bindura Provincial Hospital. She is the country’s youngest mother.
More and more teenage boys are now emerging as perpetrators in cases of sexual abuse which are being reported in communities. Some of these cases result in pregnancies which see teenage boys and girls become parents at a tender age.
Mr Clive Simango, the director of Restoration of Hope, an organisation that deals with children’s rights, believes most of these teenagers indulge in sexual activities naive of the repercussions of their actions. He said in most of these cases, the perpetrator and victim will be related.
“We are now hearing more of these cases where teenagers are becoming fathers after engaging in sexual activities with other teenagers. Maybe these cases were there in the past but were not being reported. I think teenagers have to be openly told about sexuality. Boys have to be told that after the ages of eleven or 12, if they engage in sexual activities, they can impregnate girls, he said.
Mr Simango said girls must also know that once they start their menstrual cycle, they can fall pregnant if they indulge in sex.
“What is disturbing is that the sexual acts usually occur within the family set up which shows that for the children, it will be a game more than procreation,” he said.
Mr Simango said some teenagers violate girls out of peer pressure. He said some boys are socialised to believe that sleeping with a girl can give them status and respect within the community.
Mr Simango said there was a need for the boy child to be educated at a tender age on sexuality issues. He said some of the children pick up these tendencies at a tender age and then continue with them in their adult life.
“The boys have to be taught at a tender age that violating a female doesn’t reaffirm their masculinity but it makes them animals. A culture of protecting women should be inculcated in their minds as early as possible. This will help to nurture a generation that will work towards ensuring a rape free society.
It’s important for the girl child to be educated in order to protect her as the victim but the boy child has to be empowered as well as he can be a perpetrator or victim,” said Mr Simango.
Padare/Enkundleni/Men’s Forum on Gender programmes officer, Mr Ziphongezipho Ndebele said society remains reluctant to talk about issues of sexuality with teenagers.
He said if children do not get accurate information from their homes, they will be fed misleading information elsewhere.
Mr Ndebele said parents and guardians have to be the first source of information for the youngsters and then community leaders as well as institutions such as schools.
“As parents and guardians, we have to talk freely and openly about these issues to the youngsters. The children have to understand the consequences of their actions so they can act responsibly. They also have to be educated on sexually transmitted diseases and HIV\Aids. Teenagers are very inquisitive and they will seek information from various sources, some of which can be misleading,” he said..
Mr Ndebele said communities have to be proactive and give correct and accurate information to the youngsters.
“It’s important also as parents and guardians to raise children in a proper environment. Some children go on to be abusers because of what they would have grown up seeing being done by adults at home. Some youngsters are victims of abuse and in many cases the same victims become abusers when they grow up,” he said.
Mr Ndebele said being parents at a tender age affects both the boy and girl child. He said the experience comes with a lot of psychological and emotional trauma.
Mr Ndebele said while the children can be assisted in raising the baby, it takes them long to understand the transition in their life.
He said this can also affect the youngsters’ performance in school.
Chief Bango from Mangwe District said more boys were now violating girls which was a cause for concern. He said there was a need for various stakeholders to work together in giving guidance to the boy child.
In an effort to educate the boy child, boys aged between 12 and 19 years will from this week access online mentorship programmes to address social ills that have been perpetrated by men in Zimbabwe, especially gender-based violence (GBV).
Over the past few years, empowerment initiatives have been targeted at women and girls thereby leaving out men and boys.
The online programmes designed for Zimbabwean boys will run for six months and mentors drawn from successful men and gender activists will take them through several topics. These include emotional intelligence, career guidance, positive masculinity, drug abuse and mental health.
The programme dubbed, “Boys to Men” is being organised by Fathers Against Abuse (FAA), an organisation that seeks to address gender based violence through male engagement. – @DubeMatutu.