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Zambia is a country found in the southern region of Africa and has a population of about 13 million people .The change of government in Zambia last year has changed many things, including the way the news is reported.
At the beginning of the year the media opened up many issues that were not publicly discussed previously and one of these includes the issue of gender violence and child sexual abuse, legally defined in Zambia as Child defilement. These issues are frightening to most parents because they are no longer comfortable to leave their children, especially their girl children, alone with any male relative or stranger, as is the custom with most Zambian families.
More and more cases of child defilement have been reported by the local media, with shocking reports of adult men raping children as young as one month old. Offences of defilement have continued to rank amongst the highest; numbers of those reported are very across the country.
This has prompted the Zambian government and ordinary citizens to demand stiffer punishment for culprits. Current punishments for perpetrators of child defilement includes jail sentences of a minimum of 9 years, but this has not deterred the rising cases of defilement, prompting calls for even more hefty prison sentences, hence the need to increase the sentence to 15 years.
However, for many parents their greatest fear is their children’s risk of contracting HIV should they fall victim of being raped. A common belief among some people suffering from HIV/AIDS is that if they have sex with a minor, then they will be cured of HIV. Most children who are sexually abused, later on test positive to HIV. This phenomenon is a destruction of the future generation, even though every adult has the responsibility to protect it. Nevertheless morals have fallen so much that children are not given a chance.
Stakeholders such as churches, and community workers have been lobbying the Ministry of Education to introduce child defilement education in the school syllabus so that children are aware of the danger of child rape and when children are victims they can seek help from social welfare for those who are not in school and to the teachers and counselors for those who are in schools. This education will help children to know when it is wrong.
The children who have been defiled are abused by close members of the child’s family such as uncles, cousins or grandfathers, and in some cases by their own biological fathers or step fathers. According to Save the Children, Cage the Rapists Posted by AllAfrica on January 11, 2012 we are told that civil society, the Church and all activists should lobby authorities so that appropriate remedies could be considered to deal with what can only be described as an epidemic of dangerous proportions.
Image Courtesy of Espen Faugstad