PYCD has received reports of male teachers allegedly abusing minors in Chipinge district, and this has caused dismay and disappointment from parents and other key community stakeholders. The Herald recently reported that Chipinge district tops in teenage pregnancies. The case of Gideon Mhlanga High School makes disturbing reading. It is alleged that a teacher impregnated a 16-year-old ordinary level student. The case came to light in April 2019 where it is said the teacher took advantage of the minor who had come to him for holiday lessons. Circumstances around the case is a big worry for parents who are pro-life, as the minor will be deprived of a future involving her independent choice. Reports now claim the minor is not only pregnant but has been infected with the dreaded HIV virus.
PYCD gender activists who are dotted in 20 wards of Chipinge District have received numerous anonymous calls with reports of abuse. Baseline survey done by PYCD Gender desk has revealed that there are many cases currently taking place in schools within the district. The cases have gone unreported due to the vulnerability of the girls involved. In cases being handled by PYCD, parents end up giving in to school authorities who are preoccupied with maintaining the image of school at the expense of justice.
It is common knowledge that adolescence is a tumultuous period where it involves major physical transitions but lack the psychological maturity to understand the transition. The cases of abuse targeting minors clearly brings to the fore the relationship between adolescence and the community in which adults expected to be responsible create a situation where it becomes a difficult transitional period.
Thus, adolescence in the district represents the most troubling years because sexual abuse of minors impacts individual adolescents’ development.
Sexual and reproductive health is an important component of the universal right to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health. Thus, every community need to respect, protect and fulfill the right to sexual and reproductive health to adolescents. It is sad to note that a school environment is slowly becoming fertile ground for sexual abuse of minors. Schools are part of the socialization institution. Schools together with the community shape the adolescent development within the social and cultural context in which it occurs. Therefore, PYCD condemns the perpetuation of a culture of sexual abuse of minors in the district.
PYCD have noted with grave concern that the major drivers of adolescent and reproductive health violations include socio-cultural and economic issues as well as inadequate enforcement of the laws and policies that offer protection to minors. The 2016 – 2020 National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy states that a significant number of new HIV infections occur among the 15 – 19 year age range. However, PYCD is gravely concerned with the inconsistency in some laws in regard to definition of a child, the age of consent to sex and to marriage. There is need for the harmonization of laws relating to adolescents.
PYCD will endeavor to increase advocacy on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights in schools to mitigate against the abuse of minors.
Source: Platform for Youth and Community Development Trust (PYCD)