Parliament was yesterday told that 58% of Zimbabweans interviewed during a baseline survey conducted by Plan International in Harare and Bulawayo did not see anything morally wrong with men bedding underage girls.
The issue was disclosed before the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Gender by Plan International gender adviser Tinotenda Hondo, who had appeared before the committee together with Msasa Women’s Project director Netty Musanhu.
“A recent study by Plan International in Harare and Bulawayo shows 58% people in communities do not see anything morally wrong with men sleeping with girls under 18 years,” Hondo said.
“Of the men in the study who admitted to paying for sex, 40% had knowingly slept with sex workers as young as 11 years old, and only 11% knew that child marriage was prohibited.”
Hondo said cultural and religious practices were some of the fuelling factors of early child marriages, where some girls were given up as appeasement for ngozi, as a reward to a good son-in-law or even after the older sister dies a young girl was given in marriage to take over.
She said most of these cultural and religious practices were done clandestinely, while some families were in the habit of protecting rapist family members.
Musanhu also said that in 2014 her organisation attended to a total of 21 456 women and girls who were victims of gender-based violence and rape.
“In Chiredzi we attended to 2 482 women and girls, in Gweru 2 878, Harare 10 250, and in Bulawayo 5 846. This year 2015 in January we have since attended to 847 cases, in February 947 cases, and out of these statistics 77% were young rape survivors.
We recently attended to an 11-year-old girl who had multiple disabilities but she had been raped and was pregnant,” she said, adding most of the victims would have been infected with sexually-transmitted illnesses.
“We set up shelters at communities such as Bubi, Buhera, Chikomba, Gutu, Gokwe, Marange, Mwenezi and in Bubi. Between January and June 11 cases of rape were recorded and the youngest being five years. In Buhera our youngest survivor of rape was four years. Our shelter in Marange always has the highest cases of rape victims and early child marriages.”
The two organisations said it was now pivotal to strengthen the legal framework to curb early child marriages. newsday