By Thokozani Mazibuko | 2021-04-10
The first and the second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected many Emaswati in many ways, resulting in the loss of income for some parents and forcing a number of young pupils not to return to schools during the reopening this year. Some young girls, who are estimated to be in their 15s and 16s, have reportedly resorted to sex work to put food on the table as they are now starving at the different homes. In an area under Mafutseni Inkhundla an investigation by the Saturday Observer this week uncovered that a number of children have to turned to sex work as they openly marketed their services and fees that range from E50 to E100. They openly declared that they are no longer attending school as their parents cannot afford to take them back to school. The young girls were found in an area called Ntabamhloshana adjacent Ngculwini in the Manzini region. Ironically, this is an area where Minister of Education and Training Lady Howard-Mabuza is the Member of Parliament (MP). The young girls when quizzed on their nefarious activities told this newspaper that they were forced by the various situations they are facing at home ever since COVID-19 came and rendered their parents jobless and helpless. They said they did not resort to sex work willingly, but were forced by the circumstances at their homes and were not able to gain admission in schools because of the fees that are demanded at registration. The girls mentioned that due to the extreme nature of their situation, they would sometimes go to bed hungry and they cannot even afford the face masks as stipulated in the COVID-19 regulations. A member of the area’s community police Vusi Shaya strongly warned the young girls to desist from this shameful act. He stressed that as law enforcers in the area they will work hard to eradicate this criminal act in the community. “We will arrest anyone found loitering and doing sex work at night and we advise the children to seek counseling,” warned Shaya. The education minister when reached for comment, advised the pupils to stop this shameful and dangerous criminal act. Mabuza called on the members of the area’s community police and the Royal Eswatini Police Service to totally eradicate this despicable act in the community. “They are lying if they say they could not be admitted at schools because of their financial situation. “There is no school that can turn pupils away because in Eswatini every child has a right to education. I am going to report this matter to the umphakatsi and we will make sure this act is totally eradicated,” Mabuza said. Research, however, shows that there are several precipitating factors that lead people into the sex work industry. Some of the more influential factors are physical, emotional, premature home leaving, childhood sexual abuse, drug abuse and a poor financial situation.
...................The difference between rape and statutory rape is the age of consent, which after the enactment of the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence (SODV) Act of 2018, changed from 16 years to 18 years. This means that the legal age of consent for any and all sexual activities in Eswatini is 18. Statutory rape refers to sexual relations involving someone below the age of consent. It is based on the notion that a person under a certain age cannot consent to sexual contact or activity because he or she lacks the maturity or judgment necessary to make an informed choice about sexual activity. It is commonly called ‘rape’ because one of the parties cannot legally give consent. Often when one thinks of rape, they imagine an unexpected, forced sexual encounter, however, with statutory rape no evidence of force is required. That is why the SODV Act does not use the term statutory rape, but instead defines the crime of ‘maintaining a sexual relationship with a child’, among others, which may be levelled against a perpetrator. Even when the sex between the two persons is consensual, the act of having sex with a person under the age of consent is a crime because the individual is too young to legally consent to sex, whether or not force is involved. To understand this part of the Act, one must understand how many different situations might arise which are immaterial in a case of ‘maintaining a sexual relationship with a child’. This is a strict statutory crime because the underage person giving their consent to sex (or even initiating the sexual act) is not a defence, nor is the intentions of the defendant or what they believed about the age of the other person. As an adult, one can be charged with maintaining a sexual relationship with a child even if the minor did not reveal their age, lied about their age, or pretended to be older. The SODVA details maintaining a sexual relationship with a child (clause 37) as follows: 37. (1) A person who maintains a sexual relationship with a child commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 20 years.
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