Zambia's girl children: sex for life
LUSAKA (AA) – "My future died with my parents," says 14-year-old Faith.
"The only thing remaining for me now is to ensure that I raise enough money to take care of my three siblings," she adds.
Faith says that the death of her parents – along with the abject poverty to which she remains subject – have robbed her of all hope of a normal life, forcing her to offer sexual services to adult clients.
At her tender age, Faith must wiggle her waist lasciviously in an effort to attract customers to the Zone Night Club in Lusaka's Matero Township, where she currently works.
When she is not at University Teaching Hospital receiving treatment for sexually transmitted infections, she is at one police station or another for engaging in prostitution.
But neither disease nor jail troubles her much.
"The only thing I fear is unforeseen pregnancies, which come as a result of unprotected sex," she says.
Faith is just one of countless Zambian girls, aged between ten and 16, who can easily be spotted at bars, taverns and night clubs across the country offering sexual services in exchange for money.
Zambian police spokesman Lee Hamoonga says there is no law banning child prostitution.
"Police patrols are working hand-in-hand with municipal police to track down underage [people] frequenting drinking places," he told AA.
But, he noted, the girls rounded up in such patrols are usually released the following morning after paying "admission-of-guilt" fines of 22.50 kwacha (roughly $5).
Hamoonga said the law was tough on men who hire children for sex.
The law criminalizes sex with a child, which the law describes as any person under the age of 16, even in the event of their consent.
Hamoonga said that police were finding it difficult to track down men who have sex with underage girls due to a lack of complaints filed against them.
"So far, there are no records of the number of men hiring prostitutes."
- Traumatized -
Like Faith, Monica, 13, left her humble village for capital Lusaka following the death of her father.
"I was not the first one of my family to make the journey," she tells AA.
"My elder sister, who is now 16, and a younger sister, who is only eight, are already here in Lusaka."
The two elder sisters started working as maids at the house of a prominent businessman, where each used to earn some 30 Zambian kwacha (roughly $6) per month.
Later, a friend introduced them to the owner of a Lusaka brothel, who promised to help them earn as much as 40 kwacha (roughly $8) per night.
"The money was tempting," Monica admits. "In the end, my sister and I gave it a try."
She charges 10 kwacha (roughly $2) for 15 minutes with a client and 50 kwacha (about $10) for a 30- to 60-minute session.
She says most of her clients were either high school students or older men.
"Elderly men treat us well," Monica notes. "Sometimes, with a bit of luck, they give good cash – especially if they find you sober."
"But sometimes they hurt and insult us," she sobs. "You can never get used to these people."
The 13-year-old child recalls being thrown out of a hotel in the middle of the night after a disagreement with a client.
Monica says the ordeals she has suffered were not only dehumanizing but traumatic as well.
"It's as if I have been to hell because of the harrowing experiences I have gone through at the hands of sexual perverts."
By Francis Maingaila – Anadolu Agency