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sex myths to save Zimbabwe's girls
Vickers, BBC News
October 24, 2006
of rape of young girls are on the increase in Zimbabwe.
most prominent organisation fighting child sexual abuse is confronting
traditional healers to take action over the myth that having sex
with a virgin can cure Aids - one reason behind the rape of young
In a rural area some
200km east of Harare, a play is being acted out.
An HIV-positive man visits
a traditional healer and is advised to have sex with a virgin in
order to be cured.
The reasoning is that
the blood produced by raping a virgin will cleanse the virus from
the infected person's blood.
It is part of
the Girl Child
Network project and was staged at a girl's empowerment village,
where rape survivors are given safe accommodation, counselling and
training in life-skills.
Traditional healers from
all of the country's provinces recently attended a meeting here,
along with chiefs, a government minister and religious leaders,
where many of the girls stood up and gave accounts of the abuse
that they had suffered.
One was raped
by her father when she was two years old.
She is now eight, and
an orphan, as her father died in prison after the rape was reported
by her mother, who has also died.
A 14-year-old told how
her uncle raped her and left her pregnant.
Makoni, Director of the Girl Child Network
was thrown out of the house by her aunt and had an abortion after
six months. There were complications and she has been ill ever since.
she said, in floods of tears.
All of the groups represented
were moved by the vivid accounts and condemned the abuse, but none
admitted responsibility for encouraging sex with virgins to cure
Traditional Healers Association secretary Alex Mashoko blamed
healers not registered with his organisation.
"We have heard about
this for a long time and really, as an organisation we want to crush
the people that have been doing that through the chiefs and through
must give tough penalties on this. Those crooks don't want to come
"Since I have been
practising traditional healing I have never done a thing like that.
I have only read about it in the papers but I have never seen someone
doing things like that.
"I don't accept
things like that. It is not good.
"We as an organisation
don't tell people to sleep with girls so that it can cure Aids because
there is no medicine to cure Aids."
of the girls spoke out about the abuse they had suffered.
Child Network director Betty Makoni, felt that although no-one took
responsibility for the abuse of young girls, the meeting was a "quite
a step forward" in confronting the myth that virgins cure HIV.
Explaining, she said:
"Not everybody is doing it, as they were saying, but it is
Recently South African
Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke out against the rape of girls as young
as nine months old in his country.
It is impossible
to say whether the problem is increasing or not here, but South
Africa is clearly not the only affected country - many children
in Zimbabwe and the rest of southern Africa have suffered the same
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