Govt urged to protect children from cyber-crimes

BY FARAI MATIASHE/VANESSA GONYE/PRECIOUS CHIDA

SAVE the Children Zimbabwe country director Yvonne Arunga has called on the government to commit resources towards protecting children from getting exposed to cyber-crimes.

This comes at a time Parliament is debating the Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill which is meant to ensure online offenders against children among others are brought to book.

“Let me hasten to say, these project milestones have been made with meagre resources, hence we implore the government and other key stakeholders to prioritise child online protection, and commit resources for the full implementation of child online protection at national level,” said Arunga while speaking during the handover of two servers to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) in Harare yesterday.

She said safeguarding children from accessing harmful content on the internet was not meant to deprive them of their right to access information but to protect them from sexual exploitation.

Arunga said the donation will link up the national child sexual exploitation database to the Interpol database, thus helping to automatically detect leads on child online sexual abuse materials originating from Zimbabwe.

“All these efforts are aiming to ensure the protection and safety of the growing numbers of Zimbabwean children who are accessing the internet either through their mobile phones, computers and other gadgets,” she said.

Arunga said police alone could not protect children but it was the responsibility of everyone in the country including parents and guardians at home, teachers and the community at large to unite in protecting children from online abuse.

ZRP acting chief of staff officer crime Assistant Commissioner Israel Makuwaza said their partnership with Save the Children was focused on fighting physical abuse of children but due to technological advancement they also had to pay attention to online crimes against children including sextortion and revenge pornography.

He said the HP DL20 servers donated by Save the Children will help link the ZRP’s Victim Friendly Unit with the Interpol server.

“This database will allow VFU to upload images and videos, obtain information on identified victims and offenders. This will enable the VFU to identify and safeguard more children, monitor and apprehend more offenders and thus prevent further distribution of child sexual exploitation material,” he said.

Meanwhile, Plan International has bemoaned challenges being faced by young girls among them difficulties in accessing sexual health services.

Speaking at a girls’ symposium held as part of celebrations to mark International Day of the Girl, Plan International sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) project manager, Varaidzo Nyadenga said most girls particularly in Epworth were living from their own pockets and were failing to raise fees for medication.

“Health workers are further worsening their predicament as they are portraying a negative attitude towards those on anti-retroviral therapy as well as their peers who seek medical attention on SRH issues. They are not forthcoming and usually they exert their beliefs when on duty which is therefore making girls hesitant to seek medical attention fearing stigma,” she said.

“The other issue is access to sanitary wear, we have been talking about this for a long time and we do appreciate the efforts that have been made to reduce the tax but still the prices are prohibitive.

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