Parents and guardians should be vigilant of a disturbing trend of sexual exploitation cases which are targeting children on various internet platforms, Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC) programmes manager Maxim Murungweni has warned.
Speaking during an Alpha Media Holdings dialogue in Harare last week, Murungweni said there had been a surge in the number of “paedophiles”, who were preying on the poorly-monitored WhatsApp and Facebook platforms, to sexually exploit children under the age of 18.
“Online child sexual exploitation is one issue that is happening. With these technologies, there are paedophiles that are now going online to start sexually exploiting these children, showing them their body private parts and vice-versa,” he said.
The Zimbabwean Constitution, under Chapter 4, clearly stipulates that every child has the right to be protected from sexual exploitation or any abuse and must be treated in a manner and kept in conditions that take account of the child’s age.
Murungweni bemoaned the inadequate statistics available on the extent to which the country is being affected by child sexual exploitation, saying such figures are important in fighting the problem.
“In the past 10 years, the rate at which sexual exploitation of children is increasing has attracted global attention. The challenge for Africa is that the magnitude of the problem is not known and it’s difficult to quantify, but we have this problem of sexual exploitation of children in Zimbabwe,” he said.
A recent survey by ZNCWC carried out along the Beitbridge corridor had 18% of the 292 sex work participants interviewed revealing that they were below 18 years of age, with many of them admitting that they were being sexually exploited through various ways.
Murungweni warned against other forms of sexual exploitation against children which are rampant in travel and tourism, human trafficking and in early child marriages.
He said it was important for the country to develop strong programmes that rehabilitate children who have been sexually exploited in order to reintegrate them back into the society.
“We need those who have been exploited to come out and speak and maybe educate others. Let’s identify these children and let’s remove them from sexual exploitation through facilitating some rehabilitation programmes.”