‘Boys suffer sexual abuse in silence’

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BY NHAU MANGIRAZI

A REPORT by Farm Orphans Support Trust (Fost) has revealed that boys also suffer sexual abuse, yet it was going unreported.

The study was done in collaboration with the department of Social Development, the Zimbabwe National Council on the Welfare of Children, Family Support Trust and Simukai Child Protection programme. It was launched in December last year with the aim of understanding the nature, causes and drivers of sexual abuse and exploitation of boys.

Fost executive director Blessing Mutama told NewsDay that gender norms and masculinity prevented men and boys from reporting sexual violations against them because of the stigma associated with it.

Conducted in Bindura, Harare and Mutare districts, where Fost is working with orphans and vulnerable children, the study provided in-depth insights into social, cultural and gender-related factors influencing sexual abuse of boys.

“It also included how social norms around gender shape and influence the sexual abuse of boys; and the nature and adequacy of support available for boys who are victims of sexual violence, including what is already being done to ensure that these boys grow up in a permanent, safe and caring family, or in quality alternative care where needed,” Mutama said.

He said during the research, they found that most boys were reluctant to report sexual abuse due to stigma, while friends were likely to turn them into a laughing stock.

“Given the high unemployment rate in the country, societal pressure leads some of these boys to venture into livelihood activities where they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation,” the study noted.

For example, the study said in Bindura some boys ventured into artisanal mining, dealing in drugs and engaging in sex work in order to fend for their families.

In Mutare, some boys were said to have reported that some women took them to their homes for sex.

“They ask you to thoroughly bath, and sometimes they give you new clothes and you sleep with them.

“After that, they give you money, so what is wrong with that? We know that they are as old as our mothers but if you are a man and you are offered sex and you refuse, others will laugh at you because you will be a coward,” the study revealed.

Padare programmes officer Melisa Nyoni said COVID-19 negatively affected boys due to family discords.

“We have challenges of poverty, redundancy, peer pressure as most drivers of abuse on boys during the pandemic era,” Nyoni said.

Child Protection advocate Chinga Govhati said: “Boys are being affected by sexual violence over the years and are victims of sexual abuse.”

Young Women Christian secretary general Muchanyara Mukamuri said: “While it is widely believed that women are abused physically and sexually more than men, men often suffer emotionally silently and do not report such abuses.

“This is because societal norms play a part against crying out loud when men are being abused.”

Mukamuri said some male victims of GBV (gender-based violence) end up having mental health problems. In its recommendations, the report urged more research into sexual abuse of boys, as well as community awareness campaigns on the issue.

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