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Girl-child prostitution, a disturbing trend: PART 3

CHARLES KUNGWENGWE


The past two consecutive weeks  saw us publishing  articles that did shade light on some of the causes  and implications of girl-child prostitution.In this one this writer will try to discuss some of the solutions to the problem.


 The first step is to improve our Criminal Laws so that they protect youths. Enforcement of these laws must be strict and deterrent measures must follow. That the girl is a prostitute , sexually receptive or hyper-active should not be a form of defense at all for the offence. The unreported Zimbabwean case of state versus Kereke, a former legislator, has set a good precedent and  must be a locuss classicus in this regard.


 Members of the public ,also, need to have hawk-eyed vigilance if they are to spot perpetrators and report them to the authorities. If needs be, though very difficult to implement,  young prostitutes patronizing beer-halls must be apprehended together with their clients for it takes 2 to ‘tango’.This is the approach followed in such countries as Sweden ,Norway and Iceland.


We have witnessed some of our overzealous ,but semi-literate ,police –officers harassing these youngsters .A possible solution to the above problem is  to ,therefore , offer refresher courses to these police officers so that they can be equipped with skills to translate their Criminal laws (not  interpretive skills, of course, for that is a preserve for lawyers and that will violate the doctrine of Separation of Powers since these  officers belong to the Executive and not Judiciary arm of Government).


To its credit, the Zimbabwean penal  code makes it criminal for one to allow or cause children under 18 years to either associate with prostitutes or be employed to become prostitutes by them(section 87 of the Criminal Codification and Reform Act) and also to have sexual intercourse or being involved in indecent acts with them(ibid: 70 ).

The question of what amounts to ‘allowing or causing children to become prostitutes’ needs no further clarification as it could be  through negligence or intention This(act of allowing causing) would obviously be an omission given that one has a legal duty to protect his children from all forms of hazards.This section denotes  intimacy with a child but does not expressly mention the position if she is already  a prostitute.

And this is a problem. We need ,no implied but ,a specific provision that criminalizes  intimacy with young prostitutes. The reader ,it is hoped , does remember that we have already discussed the loopholes of the Botswana penal code(section 147) with regard to the youthful ,who are subject to sexual exploitation,  in  the article entitled ‘ Do Botswana Criminal Laws Adequately Protect Vulnerable People’.

In that article we noted ,with concern ,that an accused person can raise the defense that either heshe is married to the under-aged(subsection 5) or is unaware that shehe is below the legal consenting age. This defense could also be invoked  by perpetrators with regards to toddler prostitutes.   


Honorable Members of Parliament are further urged to make law that is sensible and comprehensive(ble) ,and not vague or nonsensical,so that ordinary people and law enforcers do not encounter problems when dealing with that law. We call this ,in Latin, the ius certum rule.This could be a good starting point to prosecute involved parties.


Another tragedy is that these MPs have a habit of majoring on minor or trivial issues such as passing legislation meant to outlaw street-vending  while minoring on major issues such as the one in question. Perhaps  Jesus Christ was right in asserting that such like-minded people(like the Pharisees and Scribes) tend to strain out the gnat ,only to swallow a huge Carmel!.(Matthew 23:24).They should ,instead ,minor on minor issues and major on major issues.


Furthermore ,the various tools of statutory ‘mis’interpretation could be handy when dealing with such vague provisions following the ius strictum rule(judges must clarify  vagueambiguous legal provisions). No doubt, massive educational campaigns will provide a magic formula on solutions to this problem. Education may change men ‘s attitudes of perceiving women as sex objects to be manipulated by them. Men will be schooled to think with their brains and not reproductive parts. 

Also the girl child herself needs that education so that she shuns such worrisome behavioral patterns which could lend her into trouble and the targeted group ,for a start, could be children in both Primary and Secondary Schools. Likewise, education may change the girl-child’s negative perception ofabout herself as it is  this attitude that breeds most of the said evils.This might take time ,given that attitudes are die-hards ,but it is worth trying.

These young ,’puppies’, girls can easily be taught new ‘tricks’ of survival( tricks of sustainable development and not cosmetic solutions) as opposed to the old ‘hounds’ seasoned timers who are not teachable. As said before ,Unlike intelligence that is inborn ,knowledge is acquired and learning is not an event but ,instead ,a life-long process.

With life-supporting  resources such as education and money or their labor’ jobs’  available, the child, should she choose to remain rooted in prostitution ,would not be taken advantage of:she will surely insist on safe sex methods and will be in a better position to bargain for money that is commensurate with the services rendered(desperate people cannot do this). This money could be used to maintain her health eg by having HIV related STDs treated on time so that they don’t graduate into AIDS soon.


Our government ,NGOs and other well-wishers  and or ordinary Good Samaritans ,constituting the  civil society,have a moral duty to mitigate the plight of unemployed children by empowering them so that the temptation to resort to the vice of prostitution is nipped in the bud. No single entity or person can win this war singlehandedly but it must a be multi-sect oral approach and this is a corporate social responsibility or ploughing back to the community.

This assistance could be in cash or kind so that these ‘kids’ find means of survival: access to education ,provision of rehabilitationeformatory centers , medical facilities, different life-supporting skills, etc. Indeed these resources are needed in order to rescue  these kids from various forms of  mischief and also to allow them to realize their full potential.Both recreational facilities  and jobs are needed as’ all work and no play  tends to make Jonny a dull boy’  and the converse is equally true.


 It is a fact that both Zimbabwe and Botswana  have ratified a number of International instrumentsConventions on the rights of the child ,in general, and the girl-child ,in particular ,and notable examples are  the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the U.N Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Both countries are  also signatories of Article 34 of the latter Convention which requires member states to protect children from sexual exploitation, including prostitution and involvement in pornography. Unfortunately, and I need to reiterate what I said earlier on ,  the recent Constitutional Court ruling in countries such as Zimbabwe that outlaws arbitrary arrest of women on allegations of soliciting for paid sex on the streets ,tends to erode all these gains. Another question to ask is– have these Conventions really been domesticated or customized to suit local circumstances?.This issue must be re-examined.


While the Bill of Rights section of our Constitutions must be commended for protecting the  dignity of everyone, including the child, and freedom from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and that is the basis of controlling or limiting  the imposition of corporal punishment, this development has made the child wild. In fact we now have cases of parental abuse by their own children. Remember the biblical adage ’spare the rod and spoil the child’ and it holds true (read Proverbs 23:13-14; 15:10 ;13:24;12:1).

Article 241 of the Zimbabwean Criminal Codification and Reform Act allows moderate punishment to be applied by teachers ,while acting in loco parentis ,parents and guardians while Article 7 of the Children ‘s Act of 1972 confirms the right of the said people to administer reasonable punishment. Given that the term ‘reasonable’ is either relative or situational and not fixed or final ,most peopleparents are scared to administer it at all and, as such, will not correct the misbehaving child on time.

In the name of human rights ,quite a number of the USA states and other ‘developed’ countries have totally abolished the administration of corporal punishment on children.This parental helplessness ,with regards to administration of corporal punishment, has definitely resulted in parental abuse at the hands of  the child ,the latter of whom is now free to behave in an I Don’t Care fashion.

Many stories abound of parents who have been dragged to court by their  deviant children after havingmerely reproached themfor misbehavior as  this is regarded emotional abuse by our laws. The new position of the law breeds street-kidding and prostitution. Admittedly ,some wicked parents were abusing the rod by over-using it and or using it excessively but surely the solution lies in controlling or limiting  its administration and not its outright abolition.


Having a proper dressing code to be prescribed is also another solution to the problem of child prostitutes as provocative dressing has a ROMANTIC MAGNETIC FORCE  or irresistible  appeal towards the toddler girl child and if possible the traditional extended family needs to be restored. Yes one inevitable  historical principle is change and culture is no exception.

Admittedly culture is not cast in iron but there are basic traits of this culture which are quite educative and it is these traits that we must retain or revive. No doubt  ,our African  culture is stamped with God’s seal of approval, as opposed to Westernization which we blindly follow.


As has  already been  noted ,parental fights or divorces should be the last resort .They further compound the problem for in this kind of environment it is always the children ,just like the grass in the proverbial tussle of two elephant bulls ,who stand to bear the brunt of being trampled upon. Parents are therefore encouraged to solve problems amicably and ,if necessary ,invoke various intra and inter family therapies such as mediation, counseling etc.  


In the case of evil spirits influencing the children or bad influence from peers, spiritual guidance could help quite a great deal. Take the children to religious leaders ; whether traditional ,Islamic ,Hindu ,Christian etc,   often and this could produce positive results. Parents should also guide their children in choosing good friends  since ’bad company can easily corrupt character’. Remember the popular hermeneutical saying ‘Tell me your friends and then I will tell you your character’.Additionally ,parents need to lead  their children  by example  since they also have a duty to educate their own siblings.


If the Judiciary is  independent ,and not Executive minded ,and or effective ,it can ,through the various tools of (mis)interpretation of statutes,  “correct” flaws in any piece of legislation that is ultra-vires the Constitution by ‘creating sensetreasure’ out of the legislative  trash.That is the amour of our judges.


Before concluding ,I need to share with the reader a few lines from the song  ,’Mwana Mudiki’ , by the Zimbabwean legendary musician ,James Chimombe, as this song  summarizes  the child ‘s virtues :  ‘Mwana Mudiki, Ingirozi ya Mwari,Mwana mudiki, Mudzimu mukuru we Zimbabwe’{A youthful person is God ‘s angel and epitomizes the country ‘s spirit mediums)


As can be seen, the plight of the girl child is real and touching and addressing it remains a toll order. Even the blind can see it . That being the case ,everyone in the community has a role to play in fighting against this monster before it wipes  all girl children. In this fight let us not forget the boy child who is also at the receiving end.

This must be a gender and not feminist issue! We really appreciate the various feminist -inclined laws that are in place but appreci-hate the enforcement  part of it.An enduring solution ,as I see it, lies in changing attitudes otherwise our gains will be like a match-stick that has been precariously inserted on a pillar of drifting sand— unstable. We might have the best laws in the world but as long as our attitudes(deeply rooted in our patriarchal culture)haven’t changed we will remain legging behind the desired changes.

This piece of work would not be complete if I did not emphasize the claim that, given the resources ,the much needed encouragement and a leveled playing field ,the girl child will (and not would) outshine or dwarf her male counterpart.

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Technology saves Lions from angry Okavango villagers

22nd November 2022

Villagers in the eastern Okavango region are now using an alert system which warns them when collared lions approach livestock areas. The new technology is now regarded as a panacea to the human/wildlife conflict in the area as it has reduced mass poisoning and killing of lions by farmers.

The technology is being implemented by an NGO, Community Living Among Wildlife Sustainably (CLAWS) within the five villages of Seronga, Gunutsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa in the eastern part of the Okavango delta.

A Carnivore Ecologist from CLAWS, Dr Andrew Stein explained that around 2013, villagers in the eastern Okavango were having significant problems with losses of their cattle to predators specifically lions, so the villagers resorted to using poison and shooting the lions in order to reduce their numbers.

He highlighted that as a form of progressive intervention, they designed a programme to reduce the conflicts and promote coexistence. Another component of the programme is communal herding, introduced in 2018 to reduce the conflict by increasing efficiency whereby certified herders monitor livestock health and protect them from predators, allowing community members to engage in other livelihood activities knowing that their livestock are safe.

They are now two herds with 600 and 230 cattle respectively with plan to expand the programme to other neighbouring villages. Currently the programme is being piloted in Eretsha, one of the areas with most conflict incidences per year.

Dr Stein explained that they have developed the first of its kind alert system whereby when the lions get within three or five kilometers of a cattllepost or a homestead upon the five villages, then it will release an alert system going directly to the cellphones of individuals living within the affected area or community.

‘So, if a colored lion gets to about five kilometers of Eretsha village or any villagers in the Eretsha that has signed up for, the system will receive an SMS of the name of the lion and its distance to or from the village”, he stated. He added that this enables villagers to take preventative action to reduce conflicts before its starts.

Dr Stein noted that some respond by gathering their cattle and put them in a kraal or put them in an enclosure making sure that the enclosure is secure while some people will gather firewood and light small fires around edges of the kraal to prevent lions from coming closer and some when they receive the SMS they send their livestock to the neighbours alerting them about the presence of lions.

He noted that 125 people have signed to receive the alert system within Seronga, Eretsha, Beetsha, Gunutsoga and Gudigwa. He added that each homestead is about five people and this means more than 600 people immediately receive the messages about lions when they approach their villages. He also noted that last year they dispersed over 12 000 alerts, adding that this year is a bit higher as about 20 000 alerts have been sent so far across these villages.

Stein further noted that they have been significant changes in the behavior of the villagers as they are now tolerant to lions. “85 percent were happy with the SMS and people are becoming more tolerant with living with lions because they have more information to reduce the conflicts,” he stressed.

Stein noted that since the start of the programme in 2014 they have seen lion populations rebounds almost completely to a level before and they have not recorded cases of lion poisoning in the last three years which is commendable effort.

Monnaleso Sanga from Eretsha village applauded the programme by CLAWS noting that farmers in the area are benefiting through the alert system and take preventative measures to reduce human/lion conflict which has been persistent in the area. He added that numbers of cattle killed by lions have reduced immensely. He also admitted that they are now tolerant to lions and they no longer kill nor poison them.

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THE IDEAL QUALITY OF A MUSLIM

8th September 2022

A Muslim is supposed to be and should be a living example of the teachings of the Quran and the ‘Sunnah’ (the teachings and living examples of Prophet Muhammed (SAW – Peace be upon Him). We should follow these in all affairs, relations, and situations – starting with our relationship with our Lord, our own self, our family and the people around us. One of the distinguishing features of the (ideal) Muslim is his faith in Allah, and his conviction that whatever happens in the universe and whatever befalls him, only happens through the will and the decree of the Almighty Allah.

A Muslim should know and feel that he is in constant need of the help and support of Allah, no matter how much he may think he can do for himself. He has no choice in his life but to submit to the will of his Creator, worship Him, strive towards the Right Path and do good deeds. This will guide him to be righteous and upright in all his deeds, both in public and in private.

His attitude towards his body, mind and soul

The Muslim pays attention to his body’s physical, intellectual and spiritual needs. He takes good care of his body, promoting its good health and strength. He shouldn’t eat in excess; but he should eat enough to maintain his health and energy. Allah, The Exalted, Says “…Eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Quran 7: 31]

The Muslim should keep away from alcohol and drugs. He should also try to exercise regularly to maintain his physical fitness. The Muslim also keeps his body and clothes clean, he bathes frequently. The Prophet placed a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing. A Muslim is also concerned with his clothing and appearance but in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes.

As for his intellectual care, the Muslim should take care of his mind by pursuing beneficial knowledge. It is his responsibility to seek knowledge whether it is religious or secular, so he may understand the nature and the essence of things. Allah Says: “…and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” [Quran 20: 114

The Muslim should not forget that man is not only composed of a body and a mind, but that he also possesses a soul and a spirit. Therefore, the Muslim pays as much attention to his spiritual development as to his physical and intellectual development, in a balanced manner which ideally does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others.

His attitude towards people

The Muslim must treat his parents with kindness and respect, compassion, politeness and deep gratitude. He recognizes their status and knows his duties towards them. Allah Says “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…” [Quran 4: 36]

With his wife, the Muslim should exemplify good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties.

With his children, the Muslim is a parent who should understand his responsibility towards their good upbringing, showing them love and compassion, influence their Islamic development and giving them proper education, so that they become active and constructive elements in society, and a source of goodness for their parents, community, and society as a whole.

With his relatives, the Muslim maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties towards them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.

 

With his neighbours, the Muslim illustrates good treatment, kindness and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He turns a blind eye to his neighbour’s faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself. The Muslim relationship with his wider circle of friends is based on love for the sake of Allah. He is loyal and does not betray them; he is sincere and does not cheat them; he is gentle, tolerant and forgiving; he is generous and he supplicates for them.

In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim should be well-mannered, modest and not arrogant. He should not envy others, fulfils his promises and is cheerful. He is patient and avoids slandering and uttering obscenities. He should not unjustly accuse others nor should he interfere in that which does not concern him. He refrains from gossiping, spreading slander and stirring up trouble – avoids false speech and suspicion. When he is entrusted with a secret, he keeps it. He respects his elders. He mixes with the best of people. He strives to reconcile between the Muslims. He visits the sick and attends funerals. He returns favours and is grateful for them. He calls others to Islam with wisdom, example and beautiful preaching. He should guide people to do good and always make things easy and not difficult.

The Muslim should be fair in his judgments, not a hypocrite, a sycophant or a show-off. He should not boast about his deeds and achievements. He should be straightforward and never devious or twisted, no matter the circumstances. He should be generous and not remind others of his gifts or favours. Wherever possible he relieves the burden of the debtor. He should be proud and not think of begging.

These are the standards by which the (ideal) Muslim is expected to structure his life on. Now how do I measure up and fit into all this? Can I honestly say that I really try to live by these ideals and principles; if not can I really call myself a true Muslim?

For the ease of writing this article I have made use of for want of a better word, the generic term ‘he’, ‘his’, ‘him’ and the ‘male’ gender, but it goes without saying that these standards apply equally to every female and male Muslim.

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OUR BELOVED CHILDREN

29th August 2022

“Homicide and suicide kill almost 7000 children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves…..children’s potential lost to spirit crushing poverty….children’s hearts lost in divorce and custody battles….children’s lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself, as we fail our children.” “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” (Quotation taken from a book written by Hillary Clinton).

These words may well apply to us here in Botswana; We are also experiencing a series of challenges in many spheres of development and endeavour but none as challenging as the long term effects of what is going to happen to our youth of today. One of the greatest challenges facing us as parents today is how to guide our youth to become the responsible adults that we wish them to be, tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has enjoined upon the parents to take care of the moral and religious instruction of their children from the very beginning, otherwise they will be called to account for negligence on the Day of Judgement. Parents must inculcate God-consciousness in their children from an early age, whereby the children will gain an understanding of duty to The Creator.

 

The Holy Qur’an says: ‘O you who believe! Save yourself and your families from the Fire of Hell’. (Ch. 66: V6). This verse places the responsibility on the shoulders of the parents to ensure that training and guidance begin at home. The goal is to mould the child into a solid Islamic personality, with good morals, strong Islamic principles, knowledge and behavior so as to be equipped to face the demands of life in a responsible and mature manner. This should begin with the proper environment at home that inculcates the best moral and behavioral standards.

But what do we have instead? Believers of all Religious persuasions will agree that we have children growing up without parental guidance, a stable home environment, without role models, being brought up in surroundings that are not conducive to proper upbringing and moulding of well-adjusted children. These children are being brought up devoid of any parental guidance and increasingly the desperate situation of orphaned children having to raise their siblings (children raising children) because their parents have succumbed to the scourge of AIDS.

It is becoming common that more and more girls still in their schooling years are now falling pregnant, most of them unwanted, with the attendant responsibilities and difficulties.

Observe the many young ladies who are with children barely in their teens having illegitimate children. In the recent past there was a campaign focused on the ‘girl-child’; this campaign targeted this group of young females who had fallen pregnant and were now mothers. The situation is that the mother still being just a ‘child’ and not even having tasted adulthood, now has the onerous responsibility of raising her own child most of the time on her own because either the father has simply disappeared, refuses to takes responsibility, or in some cases not even known.

We cannot place the entire blame on these young mothers; as parents and society as a whole stand accused because we have shirked our responsibilities and worse still we ourselves are poor role models. The virtual breakdown of the extended family system and of the family unit in many homes means that there are no longer those safe havens of peace and tranquility that we once knew. How then do we expect to raise well-adjusted children in this poisoned atmosphere?

Alcohol has become socially acceptable and is consumed by many of our youth and alarmingly they are now turning to drugs. Alcohol is becoming so acceptable that it is easily accessible even at home where some parents share drinks with their children or buying it for them. This is not confined only to low income families it is becoming prevalent amongst our youth across the board.

 

It is frightening to witness how our youth are being influenced by blatantly suggestive pop culture messages over television, music videos and other social media. Children who are not properly grounded in being able to make rational and informed decisions between what is right and what is wrong are easily swayed by this very powerful medium.

 

So what do we do as parents? We first have to lead by example; it is no longer the parental privilege to tell the child ‘do as I say not as I do’- that no longer works. The ball is in the court of every religious leader (not some of the charlatans who masquerade as religious leaders), true adherents and responsible parents. We cannot ignore the situation we have to take an active lead in guiding and moulding our youth for a better tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “No father gives a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.”  Children should be treated not as a burden, but a blessing and trust of Allah, and brought up with care and affection and taught proper responsibilities etiquettes and behaviour.

Even the Bible says; ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein’. (Mark 10:14-15)

The message is clear and needs to be taken by all of us: Parents let us rise to the occasion – we owe it to our children and their future.

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