Arts & Lifestyle
State of culture: Crush the filthy predators who prey on little kids
I REMEMBERED Whitney Houston this past week. The words of one of her songs carried a special resonance for me. Though the song was originally covered by George Benson, a United States jazz maestro, “The Greatest Love of All” became one of Whitney’s opuses or vocal masterclasses.
The song, like a couple of others the singer recorded later on, demonstrated her peerless mastery of vocal ability and the pathos of her emotive singing. But I digress.
I am really not opining about Whitney’s vocal prowess — which I could gladly do because she was all that…I am about to delve into a very sensitive matter which I dare say may be reflective of a society which no longer cares about minors.
World Children’s Day?
“I believe that children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside, give them a sense of pride to make it easier, let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be…”
So goes the opening verse of the song and, like all evocative art, I could not help thinking about Zimbabwean society at this present moment.
The 20th of November is World Children’s Day throughout the world and the Convention on the Rights of the Child which was adopted in 1990 highlights important points about the welfare of children. State parties to the convention agreed, among other things, with the preamble which stated inter alia that, “in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance.
Convinced that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community.”
Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.
The powers that be This year’s commemorations in Harare were officiated by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the Health and Child Care minister.
His remarks are worth noting, especially when he mentioned perpetrators of child sexual abuse.
“The government is deeply concerned with the sad cases of under-10s getting pregnant…Stiffer penalties will be introduced and will have to be done not only to the perpetrators but I think also to the parents…What is it that you must give for the children to grow up properly? This is a difficult time we are going through…”
Punishment of individual perpetrators has its place as a crime deterrent, but I suspect that the issue of child sexual abuse runs way deeper and is more nuanced than some may believe. What will it take to convince some in our midst that children are not to be physically and sexually abused?
Something is fundamentally wrong with a society such as ours and World Children’s Day comes at a propitious time for our nation, especially given the events of the last few weeks to do some needful introspection.
A time of reckoning
In the last few weeks, two terrible cases of pregnant minors gripped the popular imagination and sparked debate on social media platforms.
These sexually violated girls’ cases mark a moral nadir. One of the girls has already given birth while the other is six months pregnant.
The girls are eight and nine years of age. The cases which get to be reported are arguably only a tip of the iceberg, given the fact that we do have whole communities within our country that brazenly practice paedophilia even under the guise of culture and religion.
It is therefore fair to suggest that whereas the vice-president’s comments are welcome, they fall short of tackling the proverbial elephant in the room, which I will discuss later on. But the time has come to draw the line under this behaviour. Why is it so prevalent anyway? Why indeed is it done?
Scholarly work on child sexual abuse (CSA) Muridzo and Malianga (2015) observe that “25 to 50% of children suffer from physical abuse globally and 20% of girls” experience sexual abuse while citing a Childline report which finds that about “one in three girls and two in five boys of the world’s children are survivors of sexual abuse”.
Closer to home, social scientists have managed to crystallise a number of issues which lead to CSA.
Again let me cite the work of Muridzo and Malianga (2015) who see the cultural dimension as looming large in this reckoning. I know that earlier I singled out some white garment sects as some of the perpetrators but let me hasten to include the other factors that scholars have established.
In some traditional communities the concept of atonement involves a human “sacrifice” in the sense of having a girl child being given away to appease an avenging spirit from the family of a deceased person. The girl child will have the task of bearing children for the family that lost a member through murder, thereby perpetuating the lineage of the offended family’.
Child pledging is another practice. This practice is one which entails a girl child is pledged in marriage in exchange for food in a time of drought or in a case where the future husband helps in the upkeep of his future wife. When the girl starts her menstrual cycle, she is delivered to her husband as a “wife”.
Clearly, the economic consideration plays a large role in this sort of transaction. Scholars have found that some settlements are crowded and predispose children to child sexual abuse.
In the name of god I marvel that we have whole religious sects that have large memberships which have largely remained untouched in so far as the long arm of the law is concerned in terms of putting paid to the practice of child sexual abuse.
Scholars have also found white garment churches very involved in this practice. That is the elephant in our room. It is the dirtiest scandal of our society, especially when these religious sects have not received specific public censure from the powers that be.
It beggars belief but maybe it should not really come as a surprise to political pundits because these churches have voters who can help determine the results of elections. I am yet to come across targeted rebuke from any of the political formations aimed at these religious sects.
They are fair game for criticism. Of course, there is something disturbingly and frighteningly sinister about the impunity of their conduct. Children are children.
How exactly any man can perceive an object of sexual gratification in a prepubescent little girl and go further to violate her boggles my mind.
It is not a proud day to be a man when such things are happening. Still, I do not expect that a warning will be issued to these religious sects and the long arm of the law is apparently not long enough to fetch the culprits in white garment churches who are a law unto themselves.
Zimbabwe is not a safe space for children right now, if ever it was. But the same applies to South Africa, our neighbour.
A woman murdered four of kids with a sledge hammer just this past week. She is now also deceased but the dastardly deed was done and children were murdered in the coldest of blood. Predators are having their way with these kids now and there appears to be no rescue.
Child sexual abuse has reached alarming levels when an eight-year-old child is found to be pregnant or when parents take turns to violate their own minor children as sex tools.
My head is still spinning over the cases and of course punishing the criminals might prove useful in curbing the practice, but there is more that I believe needs to be done. We need to empty this country of all its citizens and fill it with nobler ones.