Youth and Women

Child prostitution on the rise in Bindura

"Musina" or Trojan shopping centre during the day seems deserted before truckers arrive

 …as shortage of SRHR services lubricates abortion, STI, teenage pregnancies rate

By Nyasha Mutena

A few kilometres from Trojan, the largest mine in Bindura, is a very popular area known as “Musina”, nicknamed for the huge numbers of trucks, regularly stationed at this shopping centre as they await their loads, mostly minerals from the mine.

Bottle stores, small grocery shops and vendors take advantage of the traffic to sell various wares during the day but at night, another business flourishes.

Having spend days if not weeks away from their spouses, at nightfall, men, especially truckers who are deemed financially stable and generous in this community usually find quite a number of young women offering sexual services in exchange for money and other commodities depending on their agreement.  However, nothing can ever prepare one for the new breed of service providers that is fast becoming a common practice.

One doesn’t need to possess sharp brains to deduce wht goes down as soon as it gets dark “Musina”. At a distance, one can see clearly, swift movements, the kind only done by someone striving to dodge the direct light projected by color bulbs decorating the mamoth nickel mine, presumably to evade witnesses. After moments of twisting and squeezing in between trucks, one truck door opens and perhaps, struggling to climb the huge vehicle, a hand is outstretched for a swift lift inside the love nest, then the door is slammed and jammed. Several other trucks follow suit, just at different times.

This is how adolescent girls like Ruramai Kutyirapo* (15) conduct their business with truckers at “Musina”. She says she made the choice to become a prostitute when others were still in school when she became a mother at a very tender age. Despite enduring horrendous situations as she tried to fit into the industry, however she wishes there was another chance to choose otherwise. Ruramai became a single mother at 13, and the father disappeared without trace, exposing her to child prostitution, STIs , violence from fellow prostitutes as they scramble for clients among other things.

At 14, Ruramai had been forged to withstand many dangers associated with the field. Her favourite clients are truck drivers because “their generosity transcends that of any other profession” especially in this district.

“I ventured into this trade out of desperation. The father of my child abandoned me with little choices but here I am, raising my daughter through thick and thin. Even though I wish things could be different, I have to admit at least I am providing, although it is through culturally immoral means.

“Given a chance I wish to get skills training, I can’t go back to school but I have confidence that if I get trained in various skills especially dress making, interior decor etc, I can excell in that area,” said Ruramai.

Just like Ruramai, another adolescent girl, Rudo Tavambwa (16), says her background versus available options facilitated her current choice of occupation. Through BEAM, she is still pursuing her basic education curricular.

“My guardians are communal farmers therefore pretty much is from hand to mouth. Our daily struggles keep escalating without any hope of change that is why so many times I sneak out at night to find money. I am not doing this on a full time basis but if an opportunity strikes and if the environment is conducive, I choose money,” said Rudo.

She stated that the proceeds are meant for purchasing sanitary wear, cosmetics, food items and clothes because, “Where I come from, noone really pays much attention to what anybody needs. Most of the time you eat what you hunt”.

Her case is no different from that of most adolescent girls who live in this remote area. Overwhelmed by peer pressure, envious of “well-up” colleagues and desperate for quick returns and a better livelihood, the decision is made hurriedly. Most child prostitutes who live in the area lead a double standards kind of lifestyle. A basic academic school student by day, a mistress by night.

Lucrative sex business between long-distance truck drivers, young women and girls in this mining town has been witnessed since time immemorial. However, equally worrisome is the pervasive nature of child prostitution.
Perhaps it is because society generally abhors prostitution as an immoral choice that one makes and in the same light, views child prostitution with the same lens, or only values its benefits.

At “Musina”, girls, as young as 11-22 offer themselves or are offered for sexual satisfaction in return for food, money, drugs, shelter etc.
In some instances, the girls no longer wait for truckers only, during the day they also engage their services with local men for anything from a ride home to a small packet of meat , beer or even money to pay the miller.

In an interview, community member, Mr Perseverance Chuma acknowledged that child prostitution is on the rise as parents find the going tough in terms of sustaining livelihoods. He said an increase in school dropouts which are in most cases fueled by non payment of school fees, peer pressure and lack of interest on both children and parents are some of the drivers of child prostitution.

“We are witnessing a rise in child prostitutes from as young as 11, most of them failed to access basic education, due to financial hardships at home but mostly it is because of reluctance on the part of parents and guardians”.

Mr Chuma added that this is ongoing despite programmes by government such as the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) which pays Primary and Secondary education school fees for underprivileged students.

Marvel Act Youth Organization Zimbabwe Trust, (MAYO), Director Mr Abel Mavura encouraged government and stakeholders to focus more on improving educational infrastructure in order to instill the right attitudes in students especially the girl child.

“In most cases the girl children living in poor communities are left out or they lag behind in education due to poor infrastructure and support systems that enable them better earning. Government should invest more to bridging that gap” he said.

Trained Community volunteer in Bindura district rural Chief Masembura Nyanhewe Village Ward 10, a village within Musina’s vicinity, Ms Mercy Quetywayo revealed that while adolescent girls in this area are selling sex, their families are embracing the financial gains. She highlighted that girls must be occupied with books to avoid bad company.

“We have noted that child prostitution in our area is mostly fueled by dropping out of school due to non payment of fees. This demotivates the young girls and in most cases they either get impregnated and eventually resort to prostitution to raise the babies because the father is not keen to do so or they ran away. There are reports of some who end up being sexually exploited by men in exchange for money and other materials which often benefits their family members and quite oftenly, older prostitutes,” she said.

Ms Quetwayo urged healthcare providers, parents, guardians and community members to be welcoming and exhibit care and support to young girls who are entrapped in such situations.

At Maganyani, a shopping centre about 5km away from “Musina”, men with a penchant to bed adolescent girls also have no trouble getting what they want. Most families in this rural community live on less than $1.00 a day, which creates a fertile ground for exploitation thus validating the correlation between poverty and sexual exploitation of children in Zimbabwe.

15 year-old Chipo Gandawa, who operates at Maganyani was so calmed when she revealed why she chose this line of trade before dropping out of school when she was only 12 years old. She is a victim of child marriage after eloping to a man who subjected her to physical abuse. She didn’t bat an eyelid when she said;

“Life is about choices, you have to do what you can depending on your life situation. Even though I have come across difficult times as I tried to adjust to the unpredictable nature of this industry, I am still standing, desperate for a change or a miracle maybe. I know real help will come someday, at least by then I’ll be mature enough to make wise choices”.

Paddington Gweza, also a community member believes there is a high risk for adolescent girls who join the profession especially school dropouts, mainly because they lack bargaining power to deny clients unprotected sex when they are baited by a good lump sum of money.

According to the latest data available from the Ministry of Health and Child Care in Bindura district, there have been 528 abortions so far this year as compared to last year (2020) which were 571. The age limit and whether they were safe or induced is however not stated. The ministry goes on to reveal that in 2020, Bindura district had 11, 433 teenage pregnancies, this year the figure stands at 8759. Be that as it may, the number still raises concern in a world that has advanced in terms of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

In an interview with Women Action Group, Executive Director Mrs Edinah Masiyiwa, she highlighted the need for the country to reduce rates of unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions and teenage pregnancies.

“It is time we pass effective laws and policies that promote women’s choices with regards to keeping or terminating pregnancy. The truth being told, maternal mortality rate is still on overdrive throughout the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) despite political commitment to reduce it,” she said.