Poverty driving children into sex work
Wednesday 31 March 2004
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ZAMBIA: Poverty driving children into sex work


©  UNHCR

Street children are forced into sex work to survive

JOHANNESBURG, 10 September (PLUSNEWS) - Street children and child workers in Zambia are being driven into commercial sex work, exposing them to the risk of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), a report has found.

"HIV/AIDS and Child Labour in Zambia: a rapid assessment", released last week by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), found that commercial sex work was common among children between the ages of 14 and 16 years, particularly girls.

Boys were also becoming increasingly involved in sex work. "Their clients tended to be rich widows who paid in dollars," the report observed.

Merab Keremire, director of MAPODE (Movement of Community Action for the Prevention and Protection of Young People Against Poverty, Destitution, Diseases and Exploitation), said this practice was "a completely new thing".

"I am very perturbed by the report," she told PlusNews.

Keremire admitted that during her organisation's outreach work on the pavements of the Zambian capital, Lusaka, she had come across wealthy men paying street boys for sex. MAPODE has since launched a specially equipped mobile clinic to treat children for STIs.

According to the report, condoms were rarely used, since the children lacked the capability to negotiate safer sex. Although the girls were aware of HIV/AIDS, they accepted the risk of being infected, as long as they could earn money.

"A lot of them carry condoms, yes - but they don't necessarily use them. Their motto is: 'No money, no life'.

"When we educate them about the danger of HIV/AIDS, they tell us AIDS is something in the future. Their hunger is a more real and pressing need," Keremire explained.

Poverty has been the driving force behind growing numbers of child sex workers and street children - more than two-thirds of the child labourers who participated in the study were on the street as a result of poor economic conditions at home.

"Many children were on the street because their impoverished parents or guardians expected them to make a financial contribution to the household. A significant number of children engaged in prostitution said they were so employed with the full knowledge of their parents or guardians," the report noted.

"This is a pathetic amount of money, but commercial sex work is driven by the poor economy. It is very difficult to tell kids to avoid unsafe sexual practices when they are living in poverty," Kiremire said.

Peer education, using fellow sex workers selected from the street, could be of use, particularly in HIV/AIDS education, the report suggested. It also recommended educational programmes aimed at introducing children engaged in sex work to contraceptives and condom use.

"We need to develop child-friendly policies at the national level as well as in our communities, so the children don't fall through our fingers and land in the streets," Kiremire said.

[ENDS]

 

Recent ZAMBIA Reports

Study shows urgent need for information campaigns,  15/Mar/04
MSF says rural poor lack access to AIDS drugs,  28/Jan/04
Feature on fear over HIV drug resistance,  27/Jan/04
Getting girls back into school,  11/Dec/03
Culture of silence over gender violence,  1/Dec/03

Links

The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Youth against AIDS
Making A difference for Children Affected by AIDS
Children and AIDS International Non-Government Organisation Network (CAINN)
AIDS Orphans Assistance Database

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.

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