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Abuse of child domestic workers uncovered
Wednesday 19 January 2005
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LESOTHO: Abuse of child domestic workers uncovered

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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AIDS is leaving a generation of children forced to fend for themselves

MASERU, 1 December (PLUSNEWS) - The preliminary findings of a study on child domestic workers in Lesotho, forced onto the job market by poverty and HIV/AIDS, has uncovered the sometimes "highly abusive nature" of their relationship with employers.

Commissioned by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender Youth Sport and Recreation, the survey "revealed the serious challenges imposed upon children, as they become more and more reliant on various forms of labour to sustain their poverty- and HIV/AIDS-stricken families," a UNICEF statement said.

"To secure a job and continued support to my grandmother and four siblings, I once succumbed to the luring of my employer who coerced me into stroking his penis in exchange for 100 Maluti (approximately US $15) extra pay," the study quoted a 16-year-old orphaned domestic worker as saying.

"The silence surrounding these violations is enormous, abuses are often obscured and the perpetrators intimidate children into exploitative power relationships - they know their victims have no protection as a result of losing their parents," said Selloane Mokuku, the UNICEF consultant who undertook the study.

The research was conducted in six of Lesotho's 10 districts, in some cases involving the use of diaries by the children to record significant emotions and events they experienced in their daily lives. Interviews and dramas were also employed to elicit information.

A diary entry by one child read: "The mother of the house was very angry with me one day because I had no time to cook food for the children. I was very sad and was denied food on this day - I felt like running away or killing myself."

Apart from sexual abuse, emotional and verbal abuse was also common, serving to undermine the dignity of the children, UNICEF said.

"These traumatising violations infringe upon a child's right to a peaceful childhood, free from fear, safe from violence and protected from abuse and exploitation. We have the obligation to set up, improve and enforce systems to uphold the rights of these children, and give them the prospect and confidence to report abuses, making sure they are followed up," said Bertrand Desmoulins, UNICEF Lesotho representative.

Lesotho is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that children have the right to education and basic human dignity.

The study will be used to inform government policies, including the strengthening of an existing Child Protection and Welfare Bill.

Out of a population of 1.8 million, Lesotho had an estimated 70,000 AIDS orphans in 2002. Around 31 percent of people aged 15 to 49 are believed to be HIV positive.


Recent LESOTHO Reports
Not enough staff, poor infrastructure, but ART launched ,  16/Dec/04
Book to mobilise politicians to fight HIV/AIDS,  26/Nov/04
Challenges in implementing anti-AIDS policy,  4/Oct/04
First health centre to distribute ART opened,  10/May/04
Anti-AIDS programme working with the youth,  10/Mar/04
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Youth against AIDS
Making A difference for Children Affected by AIDS

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