By Thobekile Khumalo
TEENAGE girls in West Nicholson, Gwanda are reportedly being forced into sex work in a desperate bid to sustain families as the country’s economic problems worsen.
The vice is threatening to tear apart the moral fiber of Matabeleland South province, amid reports parents and guardians were pushing the children into the commercial sex trade, thereby exposing them to unplanned pregnancies and HIV/ AIDS.
The development has prompted interventions by individuals and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Sex work among mining and farming communities has always been a thorny issue in Zimbabwe.
Hordes of sex workers are found in these towns scavenging for clients, believed to have large amounts of cash on them.
In an interview with NewZimbabwe.com, Hope for Children and Youth Foundation Director, Vusumuzi Ndlovu said his organisation was worried about the high prevalence of sexual exploitation of young girls in the gold-rich West Nicholson area.
“We are so much worried about the happenings in that area. It is in the public’s domain, many girls under the age of 18 are being forced into sex work, which is a violation of the rights of the girl child,” he said.
Ndlovu said of concern was that parents and guardians were, in some cases, sending children to solicit sex in exchange for money to sustain hard-pressed families headed by unemployed elders.
He added: “Those who are supposed to look after these children are the ones forcing them into sex work, all knowing that men chase after young girls from whom they demand sex.
“Most of these female youths involved in sex work are being forced to indulge in such activities by people who are supposed to protect them.
“That is an issue of concern because it is the right of a child to have a responsible parent or guardian, and a child has the right to be protected from all forms of harm and abuse, including sexual exploitation.
“However, in this case it is not happening as girls are forced into sexual relations in order to get money. In most instances, the girls are not the ones paid money, but the people who send them on such dirty errands,” said Ndlovu.
In yesteryears, rampant prostitution was witnessed in West Nicholson, a trend that is resurfacing.
Between 2020 to date, Msasa Project has handled 604 reported cases of teenage pregnancies with Matabeleland South having most cases.