MPs fret over ‘sugar daddies’ preying on university, college students for prostitution as poverty soars in Zimbabwe 

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By Anna Chibamu

LEGISLATORS have demanded that the government provides for university and college female students whom they allege are now prey to rich, old men, commonly referred to as “sugar daddies” seeking sustainable livelihoods through prostitution.

During the Question-and-Answer session in Parliament last Wednesday, lawmakers said sugar daddies had taken advantage of high poverty levels in the country which have seen most parents failing to provide for their children, luring the vulnerable girls at higher institutions of learning for sexual pleasure.

In most cases, the young women between the ages of 18 and 22 are infected with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/ Aids as they indulge in unprotected sex to bargain for more money.

This, according to the MPs, must be addressed by the government by bringing back loan schemes to students in order to protect the girl-child.

Kwekwe Central MP Judith Tobaiwa said, ‘’The girl child at university and college has become prey to old sugar daddies and other bad activities. Poverty is creating prostitution and abuse of a girl child at universities and colleges. What policy measure is the government taking in addressing the national huge threat to the girl child.”

Acting leader of government business in Parliament and Transport Minister, Felix Mhona, said the MP’s question was worrisome as the practice goes against cultural norms and values.

‘’Hon. Tobaiwa has raised a very important point concerning our girl child which we cannot tolerate as a community. I want to say a similar question has been posed before pertaining to what we are doing in terms of buttressing and also supporting those who are less privileged.

‘’You find the prevalence of such incidents actually happen to those who are coming from less privileged families,’’ Mhona said.

The minister acknowledged a government effort regarding the fees programme in terms of those who can be assigned to work for their fees in order to be supported during their tenure at the tertiary or at the college.

‘’lt is important that we raise awareness of such a facility so that we do not have our girl child taken advantage of if they tap into such a funding facility.

“Let us continue broadcasting and highlighting that there is a programme that can support our girl child so that they do not endeavour to do unethical things in terms of sustaining their fees at colleges,’’ he added.

Tobaiwa also asked if the government loans scrapped in early 2000 would be re-introduced in the institutions of higher learning.

‘’Are there any hopes from government to reintroduce the government grants and loans to colleges and universities?’’ the MP asked.

Mhona told the legislator that her proposal was good as some of these initiatives are there to also assist the girl child.

‘’It has been talked about, the introduction of grants. Some Hon. members in this august House are beneficiaries of such a very good programme. Also, as a listening government, some of those initiatives will also be considered.’’

CCC leader in the National Assembly, Karenyi Kore also highlighted; ‘’Most of the parents cannot afford to pay accommodation for the students. Is there any government programme to make sure that at least the girls are afforded an opportunity to stay in hostels?’’

The minister concurred with the MP saying, ‘’Indeed, accommodation is a challenge at a number of our institutions, but with the advent of the Second Republic, we have seen construction activities of new rooms taking place so as to accommodate more students.”

Another opposition MP Richard Tsvangirai made his contribution saying; ‘’One of the key drivers of prostitution in higher or tertiary schools is the economic inequality and over the years or past months, economic inequality has increased. I would like to find out from the minister the measures being put in place to decrease economic inequality.’’

‘’Government is aware that there are those who are from less privileged families, we are having such initiatives as alluded to by Hon. Tobaiwa and Hon. Karenyi so that we have more accommodation,’’ Mhona told the MPs.