HARARE – National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi has urged parents and guardians to stop protecting child abuse perpetrators within families for different reasons.
It has emerged some families, for reasons such as as fear of losing bread winners or to avoid the shame often brought by the abuse as well as attempts to keep the family unit intact, end up failing to report cases of child sexual abuse.
Similarly, some children who face forms of abuse often prefer to remain silent about their experiences, fearing rebuke from parents who instead accuse them of either lying about relatives or inviting the abuses themselves.
In an interview with ZimLive, Nyathi said it was disheartening that some parents and guardians were protecting child abusers, among them paedophiles within families.
“We want the guardians to take an active role in the safety of children. You realise that these cases are taking place in confined places; so there is need for enhanced monitoring of the children and also the parents should not sweep cases under the carpet.
“Where something has happened, whether it has been committed by a relative or not, they must report so that investigations are conducted and the children are medically assisted by the relevant experts.
“I think that’s one area which has been a cause for concern that there is a blackout; there is a form of quietness which has been exhibited by some parents and guardians when children are abused,” he said.
Nyathi said the police were also conducting their own awareness campaigns to encourage the reporting of the cases.
“We have been conducting awareness campaigns all along and we are working with various stakeholders; chiefs, the church but we want the parents and guardians to also play ball,” he said.
Ekenia Chifamba, a child rights activist and founding director of girl rights group, Shamwari Yemwanasikana also raised concern over the way communities were protecting paedophiles.
“Our girls are being sexually exploited. Paedophiles are being accommodated in communities.
“We are seeing our girls being burdened by the responsibility of motherhood and yet they are supposed to be enjoying their childhood.
“We are tired of sanitising bad practices such as child marriage without calling it rape. We are worried and concerned about the effects of what is happening now. The majority of us are turning a blind eye.
“We know that some of these ill practices are taking place in the home setup where we have seen parents also being perpetrators and places of worship where these young women are supposed to be protected.
“We are calling for mandatory sentencing (of convicted rapists). We are calling for everyone to come on board. Let us put an end to this madness and ensure that our girls are protected,” she said.
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also condemned the rape of young girls saying early sexual indulgence exposed the minors to infections such as Human Papilloma Virus which causes cervical cancer later in life.
“Their bodies are not biologically ready for pregnancy and they are at greater risk of pregnancy related complications.
“In addition, the girls are exposed to severe psychological trauma, mental ill health as well as social effects including dropping out of school and stigmatisation,” the association said.
Child rights issues, especially those of the girl child, returned onto the spotlight recently when two 9-year-old minors from different communities within the country fell pregnant following one incident of rape and another which has been found to be a result of sexual intercourse between the minor and a 13-year-old cousin.
Similarly, a 13-year-old Chitungwiza girl is also three months pregnant following a rape incident she suffered recently.
In an address at the World Children’s Day commemorations recently, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who doubles as the country’s Health and Child Care minister, said the government was “deeply concerned” with the surge in cases of children under 10 years falling pregnant.
“I would like to assure you all that whilst we are ramping up programmes to ensure the victims are rehabilitated, it is now imperative that the perpetrators are dealt with, in terms of the laws of the land,” he said.