HARARE – Over 4 000 cases of child abuse are reported yearly to the police, horror statistics that prompted a demo that brought traffic to a standstill in Harare yesterday.
Over 500 children marched under police escort from Town House, turned into Samora Machel Avenue and proceeded to Africa Unity Square, protesting against child abuse.
The children waved placards reading, “No bail for child rapists”, “Stop raping babies” and “Stop child abuse.”
The march was punctuated by song, poems, speeches and drama.
The children presented a petition to Oppah Muchinguri, minister of Gender, calling for government to support them in the fight against abuse and protection of their rights.
Isabel Sergio, a police assistant commissioner who heads the victim friendly unit, said it was appalling that children were no longer safe even in their homes.
“A majority of these cases have been at home during the day, while the other cases have occurred while children are on their way to and from school,” she said.
“Children are not safe in their homes and on the streets.” According to statistics unveiled at the launch of the national campaign against rape and sexual abuse of children, in 2012 alone, 5 783 child abuse cases were reported with 2 918 being of a sexual nature.
Sergio said in 2013, 4 397 cases were reported with 2 191 being sexual abuse cases.
“We are working on a programme to make every police officer get victim friendly training. Of the cases reported to the police, the most affected age groups are 7-12 followed by the 13-15,” Sergio said.
She however said there were less abuse cases in the 0-6 years age group.
Childline, an organisation which provides counselling for children, said they received
730 000 complaints of child abuse monthly via their 116 helplines and 16 000 at their drop line.
“Of the total calls, 60 percent are calls of issues affecting girls, 79 percent of those cases are sexual abuse cases,” a Childline representative said at the launch.
“And most of the people who aggravated these children are known to the child. The Diaspora and broken marriages have left children exposed to abuse.”
Childline said some of the cases involved children being raped by their fathers for ritual purposes while some were abused by their stepfathers and in other cases step mothers.
Fadzai Muchina, junior minister of Gender, received the petition which she said was handed to her counterpart Muchinguri.
Emmerson Mabvoro from Herentials College Chitungwiza, said: “The sentences given to rapists are not adequate; I plead with the ministry of Justice to provide immediate legal service to victims. We need to be listened to.
“As boys, let us stand up and speak out, let us not be fearful. We need to speak up and not be ashamed.”
Chief Chinamhora, who was representing the Chief’s Council, said there should be magistrates allocated to deal purely with rape cases.
“If a person is tried after three years, he or she won’t feel the pinch of their actions, quick justice will also give relief to the victim,” he said.
A Unicef representative said every child who is abused was a reflection of a failed society.
“We have to break the culture of silence,” the UN representative said.