Sexual abuse against girls on the increase: Childline

Childline Zimbabwe has recorded an increase in the number of sexual abuses against girls within the ages of 13 to 18 during the COVID-19 imposed lockdown period.

The national lockdown started March 30, 2020 and the country in now on Level 2, while  eased restrictions were announced recently.

It is during the lockdown period that Childline recorded a rise in sexual abuse of girls who became vulnerable to attacks.

In an interview with CITE, Matabeleland Regional Helpline Manager, Douglas Jumbe, said the organisation received an alarming number of child abuse related calls during the lockdown period compared to same time last year.

“They has been a sharp increase in terms of child abuse cases in the number of calls that have been coming through, we received 95 842 calls from March 30 to May 3, 2020. However during the same period last year, we had 67 099 calls which means we had an increase of 27 943 in terms of call reports that came through in April,” he said.

Jumbe noted that sexual abuse based cases have also been on the increase due to socio-economic challenges at home fuelled by the lockdown.

“We have sexual gender based cases, which is sexual abuse that has been on the increase between the age group of 13 to 18 years. We can say the socio-economic situation has been worsened by the lockdown and a lot is happening homes such as violence against children, sexual abuse, physical and emotional abuse,” Jumbe said.

The child activist added that Childline was anticipating more increase of violations, as children were on lockdown with their abuser and not going to school where they felt safe with their peers.

“In terms of sexual abuse cases, we anticipate an increase because children are on lockdown with the perpetrators. They are not yet back at school or in public spaces where they can open up to their peers than at home,’’ he said.

Jumbo reiterated that basic children rights had been neglected, as most parents and guardians are now unemployed after the closure of the informal sector as per the lockdown order.

“Provision rights are also under attack, issues such as the right to food, nutrition have also been at risk. We received calls from children asking Childline to assist with food and foodstuffs, which means a lot of people who are in the informal sector are unemployed and their children are affected,” he said.

The child activist emphasised that parents must not to entrust their children with just anyone.

“We used to trust others with our children, including relatives but now, I advise parents and guardians not to trust anyone with their children. Our children must be able to open up and talk to us about anything while parents need to be good friends to their children’’ Jumbo said.

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