THE number of children, especially girls, who continue to be sexually abused in Bulawayo remains high amid concerns that parents and guardians are also perpetrators.
Statistics from a National Aids Council (Nac) Bulawayo quarterly report show that 52 orphaned and vulnerable (OVC) girls were sexually abused between July and September last year.
There are fears that the number is not a true reflection of reality due to non-reporting by some schools which were undergoing challenges due to Covid-19 disturbances.
Sexual violence, which disturbs the development of children and can lead to lifelong consequences, is most prevalent in females than males putting them at high risk of HIV
In terms of the law, there are various types of sexual abuse ranging from indecent assault to rape.
A fact sheet compiled by Parliament of Zimbabwe’s research department also said teachers happen to be among the main perpetrators of child abuse.
It states that some teachers rape their pupils while others abuse minors through writing love letters, fondling, kissing or hugging, attempted rape and showing them pornographic material.
In 2020 about 257 sexual abuse cases were reported in Bulawayo and males only constituted eight percent of the reported cases.
Nac Bulawayo manager Mrs Sinatra Nyathi said OVC mitigation continues to lag behind in terms of assistance rendered in the treatment and care programming.
Most of the assistance for OVCs comes from NGOs, government, private sector, religious institutions as well as from individuals.
“Statistics indicate that no sexual abuse case was reported for males during the quarter under review while for females it was the main type of abuse reported as it accounted for 76,5 percent of the total abuse cases reported by females.
We recorded 80 abuse cases, 52 of those cases being sexual abuse cases of girls,” said Mrs Nyathi.
“Sexual abuse cases against females continue to be a cause for concern and there is need to keep raising awareness in the communities about this problem.
Females also experienced more of emotional than physical abuse while their counterparts experienced more of physical than emotional abuse.”
Local child activist Mrs Patricia Tshabalala said sexual predators continue to abuse girls with impunity as they usually get non-custodial sentences.
She said a majority of sexual abuse cases go unreported as perpetrators are related or friends with parents of the victims.
“We are very concerned about the high number of girls being sexually abused in Bulawayo. Sadly, these perpetrators are confident they are above the law hence they continue abusing our girls because the law does not protect them,” she said.
“We call on the Government to chip in and help incarcerate sexual offenders because they are living large.
Some of them boast that they are friends with police and it becomes difficult to intervene knowing police will release them without court trials.”
Mrs Tshabalala said some parents and guardians were taking sides with perpetrators and not reporting them.
“We call on the Government to engage child protection committees which are aware of all these cases so that we weed out sexual abuse.
We also have children going through other forms of abuse who need help from all community members so that they complete their studies and become better people,” added Mrs Tshabalala.
In 2018, Childline Zimbabwe received 25 000 cases of abuse of children. Sexual abuse accounted for 26 percent, physical abuse 20 percent, neglect 17 percent, emotional abuse 17 percent and other forms of abuse 20 percent.
Childline is a telephone hotline to address issues of child abuse, working with the Zimbabwean Government to combat all forms of child abuse. The helpline runs 24 hours toll free, and is accessible by dialling 116.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said residents should always be eager to report any child abuse to help fight the crime.
“We are concerned about the abuse of children at home especially girls and this is not only rape cases, but it involves every other form of child abuse.
We would like to remind members of the public that these girls are everyone’s child,” he said.
“They should make use of the suggestion boxes and we also have a WhatsApp platform – 0787928015.
We also have a number of records where parents and guardians are being charged for the sexual abuse of their own children and neighbours.”
Fathers Against Abuse (FAA) founder and director Mr Alois Nyamazana said men and boys must be taken through sex education and awareness programmes to stop the abuse of women and girls.
“The rise of sexual cases is a sad development and should be shunned by all progressive members of the public.
We have also noted that OVC are easy targets when it comes to sexual abuse because of their vulnerability; they stay in child headed families and sexual predators prey on them as they have no one to protect and fend for them,” said Mr Nyamazana.
“Our problem is rooted in the socialisation of men and boys who still think life is all about showing sexual prowess.
Patriarchy could also make men and boys think they can easily force themselves on girls and get away with it.” – @thamamoe