Citizens urged to protect children

Zimbabweans have been urged to assist the government in its fight against child prostitution, which Women’s Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri says is rife in many parts of the country.

Oppah Muchinguri.
Oppah Muchinguri.

“It is not just a question of punishing offenders. Many of the culprits are adults who allow this problem to flourish and am asking them to assist us to end it altogether,” she said, adding that the ministry had implored Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa to institute stiffer sentences on sex predators.

Tara van der Riet, the director of Childline, urged people to adopt the concept of Ubuntu and ensure that each and every child in the community was well-cared for and not exposed to rights violations like child prostitution or child labour.

Concern is also growing about the impact on children of the practices of spiritual healers. A cursory glance at the classified section of the H-metro reveals a myriad of such healers making some remarkable claims.

Considered “conduits of God” by some, they claim to be able help return a loved one, cure impotency and infertility, help advance your career and even make you wealthy. One such spiritualist says he can cast away “evil influences and bad luck”, another will break voodoo and black magic curses and several others offer exorcisms.

The issue hit the headlines with stories of satanism in primary schools in Mufakose, Kambuzuma and it is a tip of an iceberg, say social analysts. Police believe the children are being abused for rituals and academics estimate only 5% of crimes involving possession or witchcraft are actually reported.

The Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC) is calling for tighter regulation of minority churches and faith organisations. “Anybody can just open a church and they don’t have to show they’re complying with child protection guidelines,” said Taylor Nyanhete. “We are concerned about some pastors who are not accountable to anybody and who have the means to manipulate their followers into believing their child is possessed.”

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