Girl child the biggest victim

Many girls countrywide are still reeling from the effects of Operation Murambatsvina, six years after the dreaded exercise, Amnesty International has said.

Speaking at the commemoration of World Habitat Day, the international organisation said the 2005 government-planned Operation Murambatsvina resulted in thousands of children being forced out of school, with some losing their educational certificates and birth certificates.

"As a result of Operation Murambatsvina most young girls were forced out of school. Girls as young as 12 were forced into early marriages to get financial support, while others had little choice but to turn to prostitution,"said Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International London researcher.

Irene, a 21-year-old woman from Hopley, got married in 2007 at the age of 17 in order to have someone to provide for her.

"I decided to get married so that I could have someone to provide for me. I could not get a job. I did not want to get into sex work like most girls who dropped out of school."

According to Amnesty International, there have been reported cases of child abuse at the makeshift settlement at Hopley Farm, 12km outside Harare. The report states that young girls have been involved in prostitution at the Boka Auction floors.

"As a result of Murambatsvina many young girls who are out of school have resorted to trading sex for money. There has been marked increase in sexual crimes, girls as young as 13 are seen at the Boka auction floors working in prostitution."

Analysts have said that Operation Hlangani Kuhle, a government move to re-house those displaced, was little more than a political gimmick to reward Mugabe loyalists.

"It was a way of paying those who have voted for him (President Mugabe). People are still suffering from the effects of the clean up exercise," said one analyst.

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