Will Sex with a Virgin Cure HIV/AIDS? - Why Zambian Children Are Being Defiled: The Courts Try New Measures to Stop the Record Number of Cases
by Delphine Zulu
- Zambia -
The number of children being defiled in Zambia has continued to increase dramatically because of a widespread belief that having sex with a virgin will cure HIV/AIDS; this mis-information is mainly spread by local traditional healers.
Because this problem continues to plague Zambia’s children and in addition accelerates the spread of AIDS, Zambia’s High Court judges have urgently called for the amendment of the Defilement Act: the hope is that publicly parading and photographing the offenders will deter them, where prison sentences have not.
At every court in Zambia, whether in lower or higher courts, at least three to four defilement cases are now being handled per session, compared to recent years past, when defilement cases only came before the courts about once every three months.
“Partial indicators reveal that defilement cases are on an increase with the leading cause being the belief that having sex with children will cure them from the deadly HIV/AIDS disease, followed by traditional belief that they can be rich due to poverty levels.
In an interview recently with the President of the Traditional Health Practitioner’s Association of Zambia, Dr Rodwell Vongo admitted that most HIV/AIDS patients are getting the wrong advice from the healers. He warned that police will soon be arresting any traditional healer who continues to spread this dangerous rumor about how to heal AIDS.
He also said that he intends to conduct investigations by interviewing the culprits facing defilement charges, in order to establish the names of healers who have spread this mis-information, and they will be de-registered.
“The belief that having sex with [a] minor is the leading cause of child sexual abuse in Zambia. As you are aware, Zambia has about 46,000,000 people currently on antiretroviral (ARVs); many believe [this false advice] and this is leading to rampant increases”, said Judge Gregory Phiri.
The judges have also asked stakeholders like psychiatrists, psychologists and other organizations dealing with the welfare of the children to immediately conduct research to establish the root cause of the increase in cases of defilement.
The judges observed that sentencing such offenders to prison was not helping,
as the number of cases of this nature are not decreasing. The minimum sentence is 14 years, while the maximum is life in prison.
Judges Gregory Phiri, Muyinda Wanki and Japhet Banda recently passed even higher sentences, ranging from 30 to 35 years. However, they complained that as long as the Defilement Act remains unchanged, children under the age of 16 will continue to be victims.“The courts are not assisting the defiled children by sending the culprit to longer sentences without finding a solution that will lessen the increase of defilement cases. I feel we as judges need to have a different approach to discourage would-be offenders, said Judge Banda.
Judge Banda said suspected child defilers should be examined or interviewed by police officers arresting them to establish whether they are using traditional herbs to stimulate their sexual desires. The problem, according to one traditional healer, is that men who have never used traditional herbs before cannot control themselves, and in the end they resort to having sex with children to relieve themselves.
In Zambia there are high levels of illiterate people who can easily believe that. It is difficult to convince them that what they were doing was actually just the result of false information.
Judge Banda said the situation has gotten so bad in Zambia that he has seen a 36 year old married man defile a girl of 6 years old, saying he could not control himself. Other men, polygamists, have come before him who have defiled their own daughters.
The judge also urged health personnel to conduct sensitization programs to educate the nation that the belief that sleeping with little girls or virgins can cure the HIV/AIDS scourge is totally false.
Dr Canisius Banda, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, commented that while it is terrible that Zambians have sex with small girls at all, for any reason, the worst outcome of this practice is that innocent children then become infected in turn.
And according to statistics complied by the Young Women’s Christian Association of Zambia (YWCA), one child is defiled every week. In most cases, the child is infected with a sexually transmitted disease, an indication that the culprit did what he did with a purpose of getting cured.
About the Author
Delphine Zulu is a Zambian journalist who has worked for The Times of Zambia newspaper for five years. For the last two years she has also contributed as a freelance writer to the online South African publication, Genderlinks.