Protect children from paedophiles

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Zimbabwe this week joined the rest of the continent in commemorating the Day of the African Child and various issues afflicting children today were brought to the fore.

June 16 honours children massacred by the apartheid South African regime during the Soweto uprising in 1976.

On that dark day, children protesting against government attempts to make the teaching of Afrikaans compulsory were butchered by the police.

The day is commemorated across the continent to reflect on the challenges African children continue to face and these range from sexual abuse, loss of parents due to HIV/Aids and problems associated with poverty.

This year the theme was Accelerating our collective efforts to end child marriage in Africa.

Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of child marriages in Africa and shocking United Nations Children’s Fund statistics show that more than half of girls in Mashonaland Central marry before reaching adulthood.

The province is followed by Mashonaland West at 42%, Masvingo (39%), Mashonaland East (36%), Midlands (31%), Manicaland (30%), Matabeleland North (27%), Harare (19%), and Matabeleland South (18%), while Bulawayo has the least prevalence rate of about 10%.

Day of the African Child

Such statistics would jolt a responsible government into action, but not in Zimbabwe where people entrusted with the administration of justice believe it is normal for children to engage in sexual activities.

Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana was in the eye of a storm yesterday after he was quoted in some sections of the media trying to justify child marriages.

Tomana, in his warped thinking, reportedly believes that children without prospects of getting jobs should be married off before they reach childhood and this is something he said with a straight face.

It should be remembered that this is the same man who frustrated the prosecution of a Zanu PF MP who is accused of defiling a child left in his care.

Tomana was trying to proffer a brainless solution to the increasing number of child marriages in Zimbabwe caused by the economic collapse of the last decade.

Girls tend to suffer the most because parents have traditionally prioritised the education of boys.
The deepening poverty and lack of jobs forces many poor girls into early marriages or sexual relations with people who are much older than them.

Few enjoy the marriage bliss because most of the relationships are exploitative and abusive in nature because of the age difference and some die while giving birth.

The children who marry before they reach adulthood often times end up being victims of HIV and Aids.

Zimbabwe is in the same league as countries such as Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana and Somalia where child marriages are rife.
Countries such as Canada are more active in trying to end the scourge than Zimbabwe is and this is demonstrated by local programmes the North American country is bankrolling to help end child marriages.

The country has also witnessed a worrying trend where courts are literally letting paedophiles get away with murder.
Convicted perverts get away with community service and lighter sentences because magistrates are very rigid in their interpretation of the law.

It does not help matters that people responsible for prosecutions such as Tomana are still stuck in the Stone Age.

Arresting the scourge of child marriages and abuse should involve the resuscitation of the economy and the strengthening of laws protecting children.

Tomana should also clarify his statements or do the honourable thing and resign from his post if he truly believes in what State media claims he said..

No normal human being can claim that children can consent to sex at the age of 12.