Premeditated violence against children has made headlines recently in SA communities. A great number of poverty-stricken girls are being pushed into prostitution by their mothers in the Free State in order for them to survive, according to the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task (Sweat) Group’s Free State and North West provincial manager Sogomotso Ntlhaile.
A 16-year-old school girl, who lives in Bethlehem in the Free State, shared how she usually spends her afternoon doing sexual favours for her mother’s male friends in order for them to survive financially. The teen has been forced to do this job for two years and gets R100 for having sex, she said.
June 26 th, 2015
“If I don’t do this, we won’t live.”
This is not the treatment she deserves as a child or the life she had dreamt for herself. “My mom told me that I have to use my body so that we don’t starve,” she said. “Every time her male friends come to our house, they sit around and drink. When I get home from school, my mom will come to me in my room and tell me ‘You should prepare yourself’ for a man,” she said.
“I started doing this two years ago, I would sleep with these older men and they would give me money, which my mom and I will use to buy food. At first it felt so weird, but I got used to it.”
Paying with their lives
The teenager said she always uses protection. “I fear for my life! I don’t want to get sick and I am also preventing pregnancy at the clinic. I wish I could stop, but I can’t…I eat because of that money.” (sic)
Sogomotso Ntlhaile said it’s so sad seeing these girls engage in sex and being forced into sexual activities at such an early age. “It exposes them to illnesses such as sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and cervical cancer…Socially, their bright futures are stamped out, as many end up dropping out of school or failing because of underperformance,” said Ntlhaile, who added that sexually exploited children face not only disease, but violence too.
“In the Free State, with many standing and waiting for clients on dark roads, they are ultimately paying with their lives. These girls’ lives are in danger.”
When the teen’s mom was approached, she angrily defended herself saying: “There is nothing I can do. I didn’t go to school, so where will I work? There is nothing we can do - I am doing this for her. I know it’s not right but what can I do?”
“It’s not fair what the mother is doing to the child,” said a social worker who works in the area. “She is the one who’s supposed to take care of the child not other way round. We work with issues like this and we normally take the children to a place of safety to give them better lives in our centres.”
Child prostitution is not unusual in the Free State. “We have implored government’s intervention but there is little or no effect”, said Ntlhaile
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