TRADITIONAL leaders in Hwange have said the increase in cases of sexual abuse especially involving minor children is a sign of cultural decay and loss of ubuntu in the country.
Speaking at a recent sensitization meeting held in Matetsi for traditional leaders, organized by Youth Invest Trust an organization that seeks to capacitate youths and young women with lifelong skills, traditional leaders drawn from 27 villages in Hwange’s ward 1 called for a return to basic culture.
They said the law should take its course and justice must prevail regardless of the status of the abuser.
“Let us return to our culture. We are a society that has lost its values and roots which is why elderly people abuse minor children and others use that for ritual purposes,” said Sizinda village head Mr. Moffatt Chuma.
Mr. Joseph Chuma, who is the village head for Railway Farm 56 in Lubangwe concurred.
“Resorting to the cultural practices that we had lost is the way to go. Let’s protect our children because if we continue like this we will end up with a lawless society,” he said.
There are concerns that many cases of child abuse are concealed as families connive, especially to marry off minor children.
Ms. Alice Mumbuna from Lubangwe 25 said abuse of minors causes high rates of school dropouts.
“The problem is that some parents conceal the abuse of children who then suffer in silence because they have no protection. Police stations and clinics are far away in our area and children are not capable of reporting on their own, some get pregnant while others drop out of school,” she said.
A village health worker from Nkalala, Ms. Ethi Moyo said some people do not report cases of abuse out of fear.
“We have encountered several cases where parents and community leaders conceal abuse which is why we need people to be trained to be able to detect and report such cases,” she said.
Teenage pregnancy cases that have been in the spotlight include that of a Tsholotsho 9-year-old girl that recently gave birth in Bulawayo after being impregnated by a close relative, a minor from a farm in Bindura who was allegedly raped and impregnated by two brothers and a 13-year old Victoria Falls girl who gave birth soon after writing her first Grade Seven paper and wrote the remaining papers on a hospital bed.
She was impregnated by an 18-year-old man who has fled to Botswana.
Matetsi ward 1 councilor Vulindlela Gasela Mhlanga called for stiffer sentences for pedophiles.
“Child abuse is on the increase and we have cases of early child marriages where parents marry off their daughters resulting in them dropping out of school. This should end and we are glad that traditional leaders are seeing the danger and calling for respect for our culture. The judiciary should also play its part and give stiffer sentences for child offenders,” he said.
Mr. Kelvin Moyo who facilitated the meeting said modernity should not be used as an excuse for disregarding culture and values.
“We are not here to plant a seed of disharmony or to teach women to disrespect men but we want to sensitize each other about abuse and empower everyone to be able to raise alarm,” he said.
Youth Invest founder Ms. Nomqhele Siziba said the sensitization meeting is part of the program to amplify women’s voices post-Covid-19 and empower them on gender-based violence, empowerment, and resilience.
She said there is a need to empower communities to be resilient in times of disaster.