The ‘demons’ hurting little kids

The ‘demons’ hurting little kids

MASERU – SHE was only 10-years-old in 2002 when her aunt’s male friend, a trusted policeman, sexually abused her.
Today, 14 years later and now a human rights lawyer, she still struggles to talk about the ordeal.
“It still disgusts me,” says the human rights lawyer, who asked for anonymity.
“Things like these are always there at the back of one’s head and they end up affecting one mentally.’’
Pain and anger have taken a toll on her life.

“In case I bump into him, I will kill him if I am able to,” she says.
She is too embarrassed to talk about the abuse in public but came close during the “shut down” protest last month.
The advocate shared her story with a few protest leaders but quickly regretted doing so “because it is embarrassing”.
“Nobody knew why I was there supporting the protest march, except me,” she says.

The protest was in support of a three-year-old girl who was allegedly raped by a famous Gospel musician last month.
Sexual abuse remains a serious problem in Lesotho despite numerous campaigns to eradicate the vice.
A 2017 research by USAID and PEPFAR titled National Response Efforts To Address Sexual Violence And Exploitation Against Children noted that about 5.8 percent of all households with children in Lesotho had at least one child who had been subject to violence in the year before the survey.

According to the research 4.6 percent of the violence was physical violence, 1.1 percent sexual violence, and 0.1 percent both physical and sexual violence.
“Just less than one out of ten respondents (9.7 percent) noted that in the year before the survey they were personally aware of situations of sexual abuse in their immediate neighborhoods, with figures especially high in urban areas,” read the research.

“This suggests a very high rate of child sexual abuse, approximately 10 000 cases or roughly two to three percent of all households.”
The report noted that while several studies have been conducted to specifically look at the challenges and needs of orphaned and vulnerable children, very little statistical evidence has been collected on the magnitude and nature of sexual violence and exploitation against children in Lesotho.

However, the limited anecdotal evidence available suggests that sexual violence and exploitation against children is a serious issue.
“Poverty and consequent food insecurity, together with HIV, have been identified as the biggest threats to the survival, care, protection and development of children in Lesotho, as they constrain the ability of households and communities to care for their own,” reads the report.

“Without the protection of parents, the lives of OVC in Lesotho are often marred by cruelty, sex for food, cheap or forced child labour, early marriage, child rape and coerced sex work.”
For the human rights lawyer, trouble started when she was only in Grade 5. The perpetrator was a man she knew very well.
He spent a lot of his time at her aunt’s house as a trusted friend before beginning to ask for sex from her. It turned into more as he started patting her on her little breasts.
They were not even breasts but “some two little bumps” on a flat chest, she says.

“I got close to him because he had always been there ever since I stayed with my aunt and I started opening up to him as I trusted him,’’ she says.
She recalls that one day her aunt asked her to go to the village grocery shop with him to change money.
“On our way, he held my hand and started touching my breasts. He then told me not to hesitate asking anything I needed from him. I was young and naive. I had no idea what was happening.”
Two years later, when her aunt was away on a work-related trip the perpetrator called and asked if they needed anything.

‘‘I informed him that we had no electricity. That was when he asked me to go to his house to collect money,’’ she says.
‘‘I went there and he made sure I stayed until it got late. He had promised to accompany me back home but he did not. I had to sleep over at his place.
‘‘When I was sleeping, he sneaked into my blankets and started touching me and I felt his private part between my legs and I tried stopping him.
“I was helpless while that giant forced himself on me. He then told me that nothing will happen to him even if I reported the matter to anyone,” she says.
It was just the beginning of a horrendous experience.

He came for the second time, this time in the aunt’s house.
“I have neither reported nor shared this with anyone because he made me feel like it was my fault, like I owed him and that justified raping me,” she says.
She could not confide in her aunt for fear of being labelled “loose”.
The lawyer’s case is not isolated.

A magistrate sentenced a man, Mzwakhe Chalalisa, to eight years in prison in 2005 for abusing a 14-year-old girl in Tsoapo-le-Bolila in Maseru two years earlier.
The court heard that Chalalisa called the girl while she was playing with her friends. When the girl realised his intentions and tried to retreat, Chalalisa pulled her away from the village beating her with fists. Once they were out of sight of everybody, he forced himself on the girl.
It is a rampant problem, says Tšepang Majara, a local psychologist.

Majara of Mind Liberation Psychology, says “many” men have directly and indirectly sought his help because they are sexually attracted to children.
Majara says the men seldom confess that they had sex with children except in passing when they talk about their sexual experiences.
“It is when you will hear a man saying he has a girlfriend and sometimes that girlfriend will be as young as 14 or 13 years,” Majara says.
He says most of these men are in their late 30s and 40s and experience what psychologists call a “midlife crisis”.
Sometimes cultural factors play a huge role in grown-ups wanting to have sex with children.

“Also there is this unfortunate belief that a man with HIV can be cured if he has sex with a virgin,” says Majara.
But he also says there is a medical problem that needs clinical research and handling by a qualified medical doctor.
A June 2015 article by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience distinguished two groups of perpetrators.

First, those who show no sexual preference disorder but for various reasons, sexually abuse children.
“Reasons include sexually inexperienced adolescents, mentally retarded persons, and those with antisocial personality disorders (ASPDs), or perpetrators within general traumatising family constellations, which seek surrogate partners in children,” according to the article.

“These individuals are most likely diagnosed with various impulse-control disorders, accounting for their engaging in child sexual abuse (CSA) without a specific sexual preference for prepubescent children,” reads the article.
Second, there are those who do display a sexual preference disorder, namely pedophilia (the sexual preference for prepubescent minors) and/or hebephilia (the sexual preference for pubescent minors).

President of the Law Society of Lesotho, Advocate Tekane Maqakachane, said the law is not concerned with the causes of a crime but whether it was committed or not.
“The law will not regard the motive. The motive factor will be dealt with at the next stage of trial when the court will be considering the appropriate sentence,” Maqakachane says.
An Anglican Church of Lesotho cleric, Reverend Maieane Khaketla, describes perpetrators as “demonic”.
“Many people do not realise that there are demons at work. Demons should be cast out of such men,” he says.

Staff Reporter

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