‘MPs are sex­ual preda­tors’

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Lloyd Gumbo Harare Bu­reau

SOME Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in­clud­ing MPs are sex­ual preda­tors en­gag­ing in sex­ual en­coun­ters with mi­nors but con­tinue to walk scot-free, a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee has re­vealed.

This was re­vealed when the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on Women Af­fairs, Gen­der and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment re­ceived oral ev­i­dence from var­i­ous stake­hold­ers on the preva­lence of child mar­riages in Mashona­land Cen­tral province re­cently.

Pre­sent­ing the first re­port of the find­ings in the Na­tional As­sem­bly yes­ter­day, com­mit­tee chair­per­son Cde Beatrice Nyamupinga said sub­mis­sions from all the dis­tricts that the com­mit­tee vis­ited in the province con­firmed a high preva­lence of child mar­riages.

“In Cen­te­nary, the com­mit­tee was in­formed that there was a high pupil dropout rate and ram­pant child mar­riages in­volv­ing girls do­ing Grade Six and Seven, es­pe­cially in Lower Muzara­bani,” said Cde Nyamupinga.

“A pri­mary (school) teacher re­ported to the com­mit­tee dur­ing pub­lic hear­ing that on av­er­age 30 pupils are drop­ping out of school due to child mar­riages an­nu­ally.

“A church pas­tor, dur­ing pub­lic hear­ing in­formed the com­mit­tee that a 15-year old girl had been sex­u­ally abused and forced into mar­riage, had con­tracted a sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tion (STI) that af­fected her health un­til she be­came men­tally dis­turbed. Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the girl was said to be dif­fi­cult since par­ents and close rel­a­tives were said to be un­co­op­er­a­tive.

“In Dotito, it was re­ported to the com­mit­tee that a grade six pupil had been mar­ried re­cently.”

Cde Nyamupinga said in Rushinga, CAMFED, a civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­vides fees for un­der­priv­i­leged school go­ing girls re­vealed that fe­male pupils con­tin­ued to drop out of school due to early mar­riages.

“In Shamva, the com­mit­tee was in­formed of an un­der­age girl who was made pregnant by a Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial and the per­pe­tra­tor was not ar­rested,” said Cde Nyamupinga.

She said some of the ma­jor fac­tors and con­di­tions pro­mot­ing child mar­riages were poverty, lack of align­ment of mar­riage laws with the new Con­sti­tu­tion, le­nient sen­tences given to cases re­gard­ing statu­tory rape or con­sen­sual sex with a mi­nor, prac­tices of child mar­riages by some churches par­tic­u­larly the Jo­hanne Marange Apos­tolic Sect as well as low lev­els of education among oth­ers.

On its ob­ser­va­tions and find­ings, the com­mit­tee found out that youths and school go­ing chil­dren were ex­posed to il­licit drugs among them mar­i­juana and bron­cleer cough syrup com­monly re­ferred to as bron­cho.

“The com­mit­tee also found that com­mu­ni­ties in Mashona­land Cen­tral were con­cerned about in­ci­dents of sex with mi­nors in­volv­ing pub­lic of­fi­cials or fig­ures such as po­lice of­fi­cers, Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment and or teach­ers.

“In most, if not all cases, child brides are dis­em­pow­ered, de­pen­dent on their hus­bands and de­prived of their fun­da­men­tal rights to health, education and safety.

“Nei­ther phys­i­cally nor emotionally ready to be­come wives and moth­ers, child moth­ers are at greater risk of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dan­ger­ous com­pli­ca­tions in preg­nancy and child birth, be­com­ing in­fected with HIV/Aids and suf­fer­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence,” said Cde Nyamupinga.

All the other leg­is­la­tors who de­bated the mo­tion con­demned child mar­riages but some of them said par­ents, guardians and teach­ers were help­less as they could not dis­ci­pline er­rant pupils for fear of be­ing found on the wrong side of the law.

MDC-T MP for Binga South, Mr Joel Gab­buza said 16 fe­male pupils aged be­tween 14-18 years from one school in his con­stituency had dropped out of school dur­ing the same pe­riod due to mar­riages.

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