According to the Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC), 10 percent of sexual predators on the country’s roads and highways are long distance truckers, 4 percent are businessmen and commercial travellers with their own cars, 78 percent are “general people” – farm occupiers, gold panners with a bit of money, small scale miners, labourers lucky enough still to have jobs, conmen, thieves and scroungers and layabouts.
“The supply of children in the sex trade industry is greatly influenced by the deterioration of the economic and social structure of the country,” said the children’s charity in a new 50-page report. The children, plus or minus 15 years of age from the poorest rural districts usually strongholds of Mr Mugabe’s party, are engaging in sex to meet their basic needs, it said.
Sex, most often unprotected, takes place in the bush, in brothels, offices, on car bonnets, inside vehicles and in hotels and lodges, where 22 percent of the children interviewed said they had intercourse with up to five clients per night.
“They are paid using empty Coca Cola bottles or for as little as US$0,50 cents. Some get blankets, old clothes and food for sex,” said the report. Of hundreds of girls studied in the rural child prostitution endemic, most were still at school or were school dropouts.
It was noted in one area in the survey, older sex workers ended up buying school uniforms to disguise themselves as teenagers.
One quarter of the genuine teens interviewed told the ZNCWC that they drank large quantities of alcohol – beers bought in the shebeens or illicit brews and cheap spirits – to escape the pain and humiliation of what they were doing.
It is “worrisome given that children engaging in commercial selling of sex are already compromised, have low negotiating power and alcohol consumption will further worsen their exposure and reduce their ability to negotiate for safe sex,” said the children’s charity.
In impoverished rural areas, the risk of HIV infection was high and HIV testing and treatment were a low priority. Five percent of the teens “condemned into commercial sex work do not care about using condoms.”
About a third of the girls interviewed said they used condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections “only on and off.” They had “penetrative sex with strangers, including the most lethal anal penetrative encounters” to get money for their survival.
Whatever happened to the late Sally Mugabe’s admirable Child Survival charity -she died in 1992 – and independent Zimbabwe’s early pride in education, literacy and coherent family values?
Obvious, innit? The girl-child’s youth and future have been stolen, like so much else, when the elite are buying diamond rings, luxury cars and chartering airliners for $1 million to fly via Dubai to that exclusive hospital in Singapore.