THE SECRET LIFE OF ZIM TEENAGERS | When the light of day fades in Harare’s Central Business District, evil creeps out as night becomes a cesspool of all manner of depravity.
In a typical night club in the city, patrons dance rhythmically to the latest music. Suddenly, the dimly lit room transforms into a forest of revelling patrons, inhibitions let loose by booze and drugs, as a swarm of teenagers take over proceedings.
Among them is a small, lanky boy clearly in his early teens. With his thick, drippy lips, he lazily follows the lazy tunes as if boneless; he is holding a bottle of some highly intoxicating spirit.
He is soon joined by an equally young girl who has the bar erupting in deafening applause at her entrance on stage.
With a kind of dressing that covers none of the subjects, she takes a position in front of the boy and relapses into some excellent moves which probably define her immense popularity here.
Enter a cluster that looks like students that have disrobed themselves of school uniforms for pieces of fabric hardly meriting label clothing, whose aim is to evidently contort their teenage frames, provocatively fishing for the bleary eyes of adult men.
In an instant, the soft rhythms change and the Dj introduce hard core music whose volume is upped, shutting the eardrum.
The song is by some American man who decided to dedicate no less than six minutes to worshipping his fantasy woman and the audience love it.
From one end to the other, the apparent school girls giggle and bounce graphically, depicting the se_x the song is conveying.
This is one typical scene popular now with the mushrooming night joints where se_x is paraded in the open by those too young to indulge amid wild alcohol and drug abuse.
It is an unregulated world which is fast consuming today’s teenage boys and girls.
The practice was considered deviant not so long ago, but is now the order of the day.
However, its contribution to the destruction of the country’s moral fabric with latest government statistics indicating that alcohol and drug abuse are highest among young adults aged 15 to 29 years now than it is in the 65 years plus age group.
While the Liquor Act prohibits the sale of alcohol to persons under the age of 18, the little teens, male and female alike, are drinking like never before.
And authorities appear to have resigned to it.
Teenagers can be seen buying alcohol right at bars with clearly labelled tags “Alcohol not for sale to persons under the age of 18” hanging over their heads.
Instead of barring the errant youths from bars and night spots, the owners and managers seem to be condoning the practice.
Child prostitution is on the increase because the children are allowed to freely mix with elderly people in their quest for money.
Child prostitutes are not asked to pay entrance fees into the bars because they are seen as cash cows.
Social commentators believe that the country’s dire economic situation and the HIV/Aids pandemic that swept away generations have left children vulnerable, forcing many young girls to begin se_x work at tender ages.
According to the International Labour Organisation child prostitution is the worst form of child labour.
Out of desperation, the young se_x workers risk and endure the constant harassments from their clients in their plight to put the green dollar in their purses.
National Aids Council notes that there is need for government and corporate assistance to young people whose lives are trapped in a vicious cycle that leads to new HIV infections as they make efforts to make a living hence the increase in child prostitution across the country is worrying.
Over 1,2 million orphans are reportedly in Zimbabwe, and recent national studies show that one in three girls is raped before her 18th birthday, according to statistics made available by Childline, an organisation which advocates for children’s rights and provides a free hotline for people to report cases of child abuse.
So the risk of the teenage girls being raped or taken advantage of in bars by elder men is high because they are not mentally strong to make sound.
Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey 2010-2011) says 15 percent of young women who had se_xual intercourse in the year preceding the survey, had se_x with a man 10 or more years older.
Similarly, young men aged 15-19 who reported that they had a se_xual partner in the past 12 months were asked the age of the partner. Less than one percent reported having a partner 10 or more years older.
As a result, young women are more vulnerable and at risk of inter-generational relationships as opposed to young men.
Some night club traders openly said they would not turn away teenagers because they are in business for the money and are not really concerned about the lives of the young ones outside the bar.
Quizzed on whether he would allow his teenage son or daughter to be inside a bar, a manager of a downtown night club in the city said “I may not allow him to go because of what happens there but the world is changing, we have to adjust and move with the times.
“This is business my brother, these young people are buying and selling a lot of things and they have the money to spend. I cannot turn them away because that is where my salary is coming from.”
Social commentator Douglas Chivandire says the exploitation of young people by bar owners is tantamount to modern-day slavery and pleaded with law enforcers to bring these people to book and save the innocent girls by flushing them out of the nightspots.
“Government must try to rehabilitate such youngsters. The best way will be to counsel them and then offer vocational training on knitting, sewing or even offering them loans to start up small projects,” said Chivandire
When one looks closely at the genesis of the problem, it all goes down to the challenges the country is facing.
Poverty has ravaged the young generation including those in urban areas who were earlier thought to be better off.
A 2014 report by the University of Zimbabwe’s institute of environmental sciences and Unicef titled the Multidimensional nature of poverty among children in Zimbabwe revealed that 25 percent of urban children in the country are living in poverty and 50 percent of these are in extreme poverty.