EDITORIAL COMMENT: Let’s all protect the girl child
First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe has called on the nation to put more effort towards the protection of the girl child. Coming on the back of recent news that 200 Zimbabwean women were stranded in Kuwait after being victimised by human traffickers, the First Lady’s plea reminds each of us that it is our job and duty to safeguard perpetuity by protecting our children.
Everyone should heed this call. Although the State is the primary custodian of all minors before the law, parents and guardians including teachers are the primary caregivers. Sometimes the abuse of children is due to the negligence of these very important people.
Much as all parents must take responsibility for the children, mothers need to go the extra mile because sadly fathers and brothers are sometimes the monsters.
It is said charity begins at home and it is only when parents really care that children can be safe. Laws and the rest of society can only be efficient guardians of the children if the parent is doing their duty.
Amai Mugabe specified the vulnerability of the girl child even if the law looks after the interests of all children equally. Although strides have been made towards gender equity in Zimbabwe it is undeniable that there are still some areas in which the females, especially children`, face more challenges than their male counterparts. One such area is that of sexual abuse.
There are more cases of rape against the girl child than her male counterpart. The police say that according to the reports they receive 11 girls are raped each day. There is conjecture that far much more cases go unreported painting a very bleak picture for the girls.
Children are rarely molested by strangers. In almost all reported cases relatives, friends, domestic workers, neighbours or immediate family members are the perpetrators. In most cases these people start making advances towards the child before actually committing the heinous crimes.
In some cases, the abuse goes on for a long time without the primary caregiver realising what is happening until an outsider blows the whistle.
It is therefore the duty of each parent or guardian to educate children under their care about sexual abuse. Children should be able to tell what is acceptable behaviour from those around them from a very early stage. Every child who can talk must know that no one is allowed to touch their genitals and that such behaviour even by a parent or sibling must be reported.
Parents must also create a safe relationship environment where children can freely share what is going on in their lives.
Too many parents and guardians are now opting to concentrate on financially lucrative activities and social gatherings at the expense of spending quality time with their children. Some parents also practically dump their children with relatives, neighbours, workers or friends without taking due interest in the lives of those children. This creates opportunities for perverts to prey on the unprotected children.
In most cases girls also do not have equitable access to resources. Although the law says that all children are entitled to equal shares of inheritance when their parents pass on, in most families there is still a tendency to follow traditional customs which see males get assets like houses while females only get minor chattels like clothes and crockery.
This usually results in orphaned girls dropping out of school. Without education, the young girls are doomed to a future of commercial sex work, child marriage, early parenthood, exposure to disease in a vicious cycle of poverty. It is therefore up to all stakeholders to ensure that all children stay in school.
Government has made a commendable stance on banning child marriages and is currently looking at effecting policies and laws that will make this a reality. The proposed arrest of those who accept lobola for under-18 brides is one such move. We hope that the proposals will be drafted into law very soon.