The Impact of Child Defilement On Society

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The Impact of Child Defilement On Society
 
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

September 25, 2003
Posted to the web September 25, 2003

Nebert Mulenga And Potipher Tembo

IF the rate at which defilement cases are soaring in Zambia continues unabated, very little, if anything, positive would be said of the moral fibre of this Christian nation.

Or else, who would like to exalt a nation where in every given week, not less than five children are reportedly defiled by close relatives or some other known people within the community?

And the perpetrators mostly get away with mocking jail sentences as short as three months of simple imprisonment.

Such is the prevailing situation that has continued laughing loudly in the face of every concerned Zambian parent and civic organisation fighting for the welfare of children.

Even so, the amount of trauma and pain inflicted on the innocent children has not sneaked out unnoticed.

Only a few months ago, a 12-year-old girl in Kitwe was diagnosed with severe syphilis after she was defiled by her 30-year-old uncle.

In a few weeks that followed, some two sisters in Lusaka’s George township aged eight and nine were lying in agony at the local clinic, nursing serious wounds on their private parts after being sexually abused by their own 36-year-old father.

And all Lusaka residents and civic organisations are still mourning the death of an 11-year-old girl who was defiled by her 32-year-old step-brother for a period of over three years until she died of medical complications recently.

“Just what has become of this nation?” is a question that remains begging as statistics of defilement cases keep swelling every other day.

Between January and June this year, a total of 470 cases of child defilement were reported to the police through the Victim Support Unit (VSU).

VSU national co-ordinator Peter Kanunka says the record represents a rapid increase in the number of cases handled by the Unit since its inception in 1996. In the year 2000, only 366 cases were recorded while in 2001 the number doubled to 715.

Whether the increase is due to improved awareness is a question of debate but the general impression being created is that defilement cases have become more rampant and complicated today, leading to many deaths and permanent deformity of victims.

“Some children have contracted STDs and tested HIV positive after being defiled which is tantamount to murder since there is no known cure for the virus at the moment,” says Lusaka-based epidemiologist Mwaba Kasese.

A medical superintendent for sub-division four under the Lusaka District Health Management Team, Dr Kasese has undertaken a number of studies on the various aspects of child defilement since 1999.

Adolescents

According to her, defilement is not restricted to an actual sexual act with a minor.

It includes the involvement of dependent, developmentally immature children and adolescents in any sexual activity which they (children) do not fully comprehend and are thus unable to give informed consent.

This refers to the use of a child by adults for sexual gratification through exhibitionism, pornography, verbal, touching of private parts, oral-genital contact or actual vaginal sex.

Defilement, however, does not exist in isolation but is usually accompanied by force which leaves painful lacerations on the child’s private parts.

If not checked on time, these may lead to long-term psycho-somatic problems like extreme fear and anxiety, nightmares and bed-wetting since a child would be too scared to get up at night, even when fully awake.

For those going to school, the immediate symptom would be a sudden attention deficit disorder while the majority just take to the streets for prostitution or resort to drugs and substance abuse.

A recent global study undertaken by the Women’s World Summit Foundation indicates that 95 per cent of the total number of defiled children stand high chances of becoming abusers in the future.

“Ninety-five per cent of prostitutes and 80 per cent of substance abusers were abused as children, 80 per cent of the children who run away from homes cite abuse-related reasons and 78 per cent of the total prison population in the world were abused as little children,” states the brochure released recently by the global civic organisation.

But is defilement a mere social problem with psychological effects?

“No! Not at all,” argues Ndola Central Hospital psychologist Ethel Chongo.

“Defilement cuts across the tripartite being of a person. It is a problem of the malfunctioning of the soul, spirit and body. There is no inhibition process in the people who defile young girls and boys as they relate to themselves as dynamic beings.”

For such people, their inhibition (self control) is struck as a balance between the logical part of the brain and the emotional part which only desires self-fulfillment.

This would call for self-examination of one’s feelings against logic if one was to become rational.

“Sex-drive can be as pressurising as hunger depending on how a person lives, the priorities one sets in life and the decisions made. People who defile children fail to cross-examine themselves against their own integrity, that of other persons, the socio-environment and consequences outlined by moral philosophy, says Ms Chongo.”

This is a view highly esteemed among the psychologists on the probable causes of child defilement.

Lusaka-based consultant psychiatrist Alan Haworth cites watching pornographic movies and explicit films as a major motivation behind the spate of defilement cases.

Other factors, he says, may include the use of mind-altering drugs like alcohol and failure to settle disputes amicably, say between an employer and a domestic worker which may motivate the worker to inflict pain on the employer by defiling their child.

While others resort to the practice due to the absence of an appropriate partner, there are also people that are just born with a natural interest in having sex with children – psychologically referred to as paedophiles.

The New Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry (Volume one) defines paedophiles as people who prefer having sex with young children than older women for reasons they may not even comprehend.

“Paedophiles usually lead children into doing something they (children) do not fully understand such as fondling their private parts before having sex with them,” reads the book.

Other paedophiles may even have steady relationships with older women or even be married but would still hold exclusive interest in children.

These maybe a rare gem in Zambia but Professor Harworth says their existence in the country cannot be ruled out. They cut across all nations, religions and races.

The church on the other hand feels the problem has further been compounded by the extreme lack of fear for God on the face of the earth today.

They say this has given rise to a number of sorcerers and witchdoctors who are deceiving people into believing they would be cleansed of their sins and incurable diseases like HIV/AIDS upon having sex with minors.

“Witchdoctors are wrongfully advising HIV/AIDS patients to sleep with minors in order to be cured and this is the worst form of immorality and cruelty against children,” says Ndola Bethel Church Pastor Loveness Bwalya.

Her concern is a problem that has of late gained recognition even by the World Health Organisation though there is no documented evidence on the exact places where such a belief is most esteemed.

But is it medically justified or has there been any person that was HIV positive but later tested negative after defiling a minor?

“No! A person can never be cured of HIV by sleeping with a minor. It will just be another sexual act leading to further spread of the disease,” argues Dr Kasese while contending that there has not been any test conducted on the offenders because of the unfriendly Judicial system in Zambia.

Even where a child has in the process tested HIV positive, efforts to link the perpetrator to the infection have always crumbled to nothing. A more precise reason why some civic organisations like the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) are advocating the reformation of the laws on child sexual abuse.

“Government should introduce stiffer punishment for defilers to deter others from committing the same offence.

“It should also re-train all judicial personnel and police if we are to combat the scourge,” YWCA youth co-ordinator Cecilia Chomba recently told a workshop held for journalists on child sexual abuse at Lusaka Hotel.

Legal Affairs Minister George Kunda last month disclosed that Government had commenced the process of reforming laws on child sexual abuse to provide stiff punishment for offenders.

Mr Kunda, who is Attorney General, said his ministry was collaborating with the ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development in coming up with suitable penalties.

“The Government has taken note of all concerns raised by various organisations on the need to stiffen penalties for child sexual abusers,” he said.

Indeed, the sooner the exercise is completed, the more effective the fight against child sexual abuse will become.

But do all people think so?

“Meting stiffer punishment for offenders is not a solution but getting to provide safety for the victim and support to the affected families,” says Ms Moonga, a Lusaka housewife of Chawama township.

“I would personally not be happy to see my defiler husband jailed for 25 years when I know there would be no one to provide for my children.”

And such is the controversy that is confronting the well-meant campaign against child sexual abuse.

© 2003 The Times of Zambia

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