Harare Residents Concerned Over Rise In Child Sex Work and Drug Abuse

MOST Harare suburbs are experiencing a surge in cases of drug and substance and child sex work which many residents believe is being driven by the prolonged time the kids have spent outside learning institutions due to lockdown restrictions.

By Michael Gwarisa

Following the prolonged closure of schools due to recurring lockdown restrictions since 2020, most children have found solace in harmful practices such as sexual experimentation and drug and substance abuse. The massive job losses due to retrenchments and closure of some businesses during the lockdown have also impacted on the daily livelihoods of children, leading to some girls as young as nine reportedly engaging in transactional sex for survival.

Various representatives of from the Harare Residents Trust (HRT) who attended a Press Club Discussion that was hosted by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), indicated that the situation was fast moving towards a point of no return if something is not done as a matter of urgency.

Shyleen Gumbeze, who represented the Glenview chapter of the Harare Residents Trust (HRT) said young girls had joined older girls and young women in the sex trade and the situation was not looking good.

There is now rampart prostitution at Glen View 3 shops. Things are not looking good. We are having sex workers in almost all age groups including some girls who are doing Grade 7. I think the pandemic is to blame for this rise in children getting into sex work. The Pandemic has caused poverty in our communities and forced girls into sex work. Poverty has killed society, if you walk or drive past Glen View 3 shops at night, you see girls flashing for vehicles and potential clients. It was not like that before.

“We are appealing to the City of Harare for street lights, maybe if we get lights, they will be ashamed to do what they do in the dark. Sometimes, these people are not working that is probably why they venture into sex work. I once moved around asking them what could be reason and they told me that it’s because of poverty especially for those girls who have completed their studies at Universities and Colleges because some are actually University Graduates,” said Gumbeze.

She added that the increase sex work was also linked to the upsurge in drug and substance abuse.

“In Glen View, we have bases where young girls and boys just kill time doing nothing but drugs. They at times host orgies and invite these young girls to these sex parties where drugs will be in abundance. We need peer educators in our communities who can help the girl children and the young boys. Schools should also reopen so that the children don’t spend time doing nothing. I think government or whoever has to power should intervene.”

Nolly Mudiwa, the Chairperson for Harare Residents Trust in Kuwadzana said 
young people are at times seen scavenging dumpsites for used diapers and it is 
believed that the diapers contain an alcoholic jelly that is then distilled to
make a highly intoxicating illicit brew.

“The City of Harare does not collect refuse, we don’t even know when they last came to collect refuse. Unfortunately, this refuse and garbage issue has created a drug problem as young people are now moving around collecting used diapers to create an illicit brew. We saw boys and young girls moving around picking up diapers. This is painful seeing our children losing their lives to drugs like this,” said Mrs Mudiwa.

Taurai Matienga from Chitungwiza who was also representing the HRT concurred with his colleagues on the Drug Abuse issue saying, “Another problem having Chitungwiza is the drug abuse issue. It’s like now, every society is facing this problem. Most houses in Chitungwiza are becoming retailers for dangerous drugs. You see young girls and young boys go into those houses to get drugs.

“The unfortunate part is that the police are aware of this and they even know the houses where the drugs are sold but they rarely do anything about it. They just come and leave without arresting anyone. We suspect maybe they get bribes from these drug dealers.”

Meanwhile, speaking to HealthTimes, the City of Harare Acting Spokesperson, Mr Innocent Ruwende said they partnered various organisations such as the United Population Fund (UNFPA), the Embassy of Sweden and the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development and others to set up youth friendly centres, however the young people were not making use of the youth centres.

“We have facilities dotted around the city such as community halls and vacation training centres where youths are training in self-help activities. In Hopley, we have the Tariro Clinic and Youth Centre, a youth centre where we are working with various partners to train people in life skills urging them to desist from these ills. Unfortunately many have not taken up the initiative,” said Mr Ruwende.

 

 

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