By A Correspondent- Community leaders say the prevailing economic hardships have forced parents to abandon their children, making them vulnerable to sexual abuse.
This came out during engagements on gender-based violence (GBV) in public spaces organised by the United Nations (UN) Women in partnership with the Spotlight Initiative in Umzingwane district, Matabeleland South province.
Zimbabwe has recorded a surge in child marriages, with child rights activists advocating for stiffer penalties for perpetrators.
Activists under the banner of HeforShe, a UN-sponsored solidarity movement against GBV yesterday bemoaned the increase in child-headed families as parents flock to the diaspora to eke out a living.
“Children need guidance and protection from their parents. But what we have witnessed is children are nurturing themselves because of the absence of their parents. Children are often left in the custody of other people as their parents go to cities or even out of the country to look for jobs,” local church leader Lovemore Sibanda said.
Those guardians sometimes fail to protect them from abusers or provide moral guidance to them which results in the children behaving in a wayward manner.
“Sometimes those people who are left as custodians of children tend to sexually or mentally abuse them. Families should put in place concrete measures to strike a balance between protecting children from social ills and the need to meet their economic needs.”
HeforShe champion Vusumuzi Mpofu said parents and guardians were increasingly disregarding child protection laws due to the need to provide for families.
“We see parents taking children to the markets and turning them into vendors, which is against the laws. They spent the whole day loitering at the marketplaces mingling with older boys and men who eventually abuse them,” he said.
“Such environments are not conducive for child development and growth. Parents should protect children from dangers of the society. There is a need for increased education among parents on children’s rights.”
Activists against GBV have raised the red flag on child abuse after a nine-year-old girl from Tsholotsho gave birth at Mpilo Central Hospital.