Ageing prostitutes in Epworth have found a way to make money using young girls as young as 12. They look for clients for them and pocket the payment.
A community leader for ward 4 in Epworth, Andrew Manene urged the police to urgently intervene to stop the practise that has rocked the suburb plagued by grinding poverty. Speaking at a meeting hosted by Padare/Enkundleni/Men's Forum in Epworth last week, Manene said poverty was forcing desperate women to take children near pubs and market them to men for as little as US$3.
"If you come here around 7:30pm you will see young girls around 12 to 16 years being involved in prostitution. There is a ring of women who are taking young girls near bottle stores where they are using them as prostitutes. The women collect the money and instruct clients to choose girls they want to have sex with," he said.
The women parade the vulnerable teenagers near bottle stores and night clubs where unscrupulous paedophiles would come and cherry-pick them.
"This is happening. I am not talking of something that is not happening. We have tried to talk to the neighbourhood watch committee, but they are failing to stop this. The kids do not get into bars. Older women get in the bars and then source for clients for the young girls," said Manene.
Standardcommunity caught up with one of the child prostitutes, Sibongile (not her real name), at Munyuki Shopping Centre in Epworth. The 15-year-old girl, who left school at the age of 13, said she has engaged with four to five different men each night.
"I don't want to do this but life is so difficult. My parents are both late. People do not want to employ me because l don't have a birth certificate and a national identification card," she said.
Like street children in central Harare, child prostitutes, whether occasional or full-time, get involved in crime and drug abuse. "I use drugs to suppress my feelings of worthlessness for living a life of prostitution," said Sibongile.
The older prostitutes were, however, reluctant to speak out fearing arrest and exposure. Some of them moved away the moment they were asked questions. "If you want a little one (teenager) just say so and get away," said one of them before telling her "trainees" to move away.
A police officer, who attended the Padare meeting, encouraged members of the community to report abuses that were taking place in their areas. "We are ready to work with members of the community if they tell us issues affecting them," said the officer, who cannot be named because he had not been cleared to speak on behalf of the police.
Padare programme officer Nakai Nengomasha said the forums would increase awareness programmes and come up with community responses to issues surrounding gender-based violence and abuse.
"We want to build community responses and community awareness surrounding those areas particularly community strategies on reducing male violence on women," said Nengomasha.