Girl child needs society at large for protection against sexual abuse Sexual abuse

Rejoyce Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
Back in the day, girls were guarded jealously. They were a treasure protected and cherished dearly by the male relatives in their lives.
Girls could rest assured knowing they were safe, as long as a male relative or family friend was nearby.
Sadly, this narrative has changed over the years as the protectors of the little girls have turned into perpetrators of various forms of abuse.

While a litany of laws have been enacted to protect women and girls from abuse, many of them remain vulnerable.
Young girls as young as 14 continue to be married off primarily for financial gain in many instances.
Harmful practices such as early, forced and child marriages, forced widow inheritance, female genital mutilation and sexual intercourse between fathers-in-law and newly married daughters-in-law are rife in many communities.

The young girls handed over for marriage are not only deprived of the right to choose their own life partners but also the right to an education and career choices.

Most of them come from poor backgrounds with little or no education and the situations they find themselves in only amplify the problem.

They also face increased risk of possible death at childbirth due to various health complications as a result of their young age and failure to access adequate health care while pregnant.
Child marriages that rob young girls of their childhood and force them to adopt adult roles and responsibilities have been a huge challenge in Zimbabwe.

The Government pledged to eliminate them by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Chief Nyangazonke of Matobo, Matabeleland South province said it was important for people to have an understanding of human rights if cases of young girls being sexually abused were to come down.

“I don’t condone the act of having young children who are our daughters being sexually abused and exposed to all the wrong things. In a society where such is happening, community leaders should act immediately and report such cases,” said Chief Nyangazonke.

He said there should be awareness campaigns in communities where people are taught about sexual abuse and practices that are harmful to young children.

Chief Nyangazonke

Chief Nyangazonke encouraged Government officials and experts to stand up against child sexual abuse and have it completely eradicated from communities.

Chief Brave Mathema of Gwanda concurred saying harmful practices and sexual abuse are proof of how bad and corrupt people have become.
He said the rotten apples in society had allowed corrupt traditional healers to lead them into greediness and doing wrong things in order to get money. “It would be best if there are programmes and awareness campaigns to be conducted in schools, at clinics and in communities where everyone is going to be taught about such things. Such teachings are crucial because that is what is destroying the moral values of some communities.

“Children should also be open with their parents about what happens to them so that they’re not victims of sexual abuse,” said Chief Mathema.
Cases have been heard where perpetrators claim they would have sexually abused a minor at the instruction of a traditional healer for the purposes of acquiring wealth or treating certain ailments.

Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) General Secretary Pastor Trever Masuku

Chronicle spoke to traditional healers who clearly put it out that they do not condone such cruel practices on young children.
They said there should be measures put in place to protect young girls and community members should work together in exposing people that are behind such things.

Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) General Secretary Pastor Trever Masuku said society today had changed and safety nets were no longer available.
He said it is sad that most people that abuse young girls are driven by the force of attaining money, even if it means they have to sleep with them.

“There should be safe spaces created for children so that they’re able to speak out and be protected. There should be teachings in churches and schools so that people are made aware that what is being done to these young girls is wrong,” said Pastor Masuku.
According to statistics, one in three young women in Zimbabwe were married in union at childhood. 241 000 girls and women were married or in union before age 15 while 1,4 million were married or in union before age 18.

Unicef says 650 million girls and women around the world today have been married as children, and at least 200 million have been subjected to female genital mutilation which it recognises as human rights violations.
Female genital mutilation which involves the injury to the female genital organ for non-medical reasons causes serious health problems such as infection, prolonged bleeding, infertility and even death.


The Unicef June 2022 statistical report on child marriages said that eastern and southern Africa are among the regions with the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world. Nearly one third of the region’s young women were married under the age of 18.
Numerous reports have been made of young girls giving birth at Apostolic sect shrines with a significant number of them dying in the process.

Some Apostolic sects are infamous for arranged child marriages with some of the girls entering into polygamous marriages.
Ms Matsidiso Sibanda of Madida Apostolic Church said it is sad that most perpetrators of abuse are not strangers to their victims.
“In order to avoid children being sexually abused and becoming victims of harmful practices, there should be strong mother to child relationships so that the children are able to speak up if there’s anything wrong. There are scenarios where children are abused but because of lack of good relations, they don’t speak up,” said Ms Sibanda.

She said girls should be taught not to allow any male figure to touch their private parts.
Ms Sibanda said harsh laws should be enacted to deter would-be perpetrators from committing such crimes.
Mrs Busisiwe Bhebhe, an opinion leader, said the basic breakdown in family structures has impacted the way society behaves and the way children are treated.

She said society has not passed on the good part of its traditions as people justify the abuse of children along the lines of culture and religion where a man will be told to sleep with a child or virgin in order to attract money.
Mrs Bhebhe said on the other hand, children nowadays are exposed to Western cultures where sexual relations are liberated to an extent where very young people freely engage in sexual activities.

“The advent of technology has made children watch and be more exposed to certain things than there were in the past. Children are growing into adults that have perverted ideas of how to treat each other as women and men and they have perverted ideas of what sexual relations are,” said Mrs Bhebhe.

She said society and its leaders ought to reach out and work together in driving out corruption in the legal system and exposing perpetrators of sexual abuse and harmful practices. – @ReeSibanda.

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