Monday, 28 April 2014
Thursday, 17 April 2014
Wednesday, 16 April 2014
"Madagascar where child prostitution is common, cheap and trivial
MAHAJANGA, Madagascar — At nightfall, the girls gather in small groups along the waterfront and outside the sweaty nightclubs blaring West African pop music. Some are elaborately done up in makeup and colorful cocktail dresses. Others stand plainly in jeans and T-shirts. Most are somewhere between 13 and 17 years old, though they can be as young as 8 or 9.
There is no shortage of demand for their services. Despite an abundance of prostitutes of all ages in the resort town, minors are a popular choice among clients. Whereas an adult might charge about $10, a child’s services can go for as little as 50 cents.
“The Great Island has little by little developed the sad reputation as favored destination for sexual tourists,” stated a December report by Najat Maalla M’jid, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, prostitution of children and pornography involving children.
Madagascar has long grappled with the scourge of child prostitution. Yet since a 2009 coup d’état sent the country spiraling into political and economic disarray, the problem has reached crisis proportions.Reliable figures are hard to come by, but M’jid said there is unanimous agreement among experts that “child prostitution in Madagascar is at an alarming level and has dramatically increased in these past years, particularly since 2009.”
The director of the Collective for the Rights of the Child and Family (CDEF) in Mahajanga, Sylvie Hanitra Rakotoarivao, said in December that 123 cases of child prostitution had been documented in Mahajanga, a city of about 200,000, over the previous month alone.Foreign sex tourists account for much of the demand. In 2011, the last year for which official figures are available, 225,000 tourists visited Madagascar, a 15 percent increase over the previous year. Fifty-eight percent of those were from France, the former colonial power. And while most undoubtedly came to enjoy the country’s pristine beaches and lemur-filled forests, significant numbers arrived with less wholesome intentions.
In addition to Mahajanga, common sites for child prostitution include the resort island of Nosy Be; big cities like Diego-Suarez, Toamasina and the capital, Antananarivo; and mining towns like Ilakaka in the south.At the CDEF office, Yasmina, 15, recounted her entry into this underworld in plain sight in 2012. Her parents had split and she’d moved in with her grandmother after being mistreated by her father’s new wife. But the grandmother was sick and Yasmina couldn’t afford to stay in school.She started to sell beignets for pennies on the street. Yasmina said that one evening, a friend invited her to come out to the beach. There, she presented Yasmina to an older Malagasy man.
“He likes you. You’re going to go with him,” the friend instructed.She earned almost $10 that night—more than the usual rate because she was a virgin and a fortune in a country where more than 9 in 10 live on less than $2 a day. Over a year later, she recalled the experience with disgust.“I felt humiliated and dirty,” Yasmina said.The money, though never as much as that first encounter, was too good to pass up in the months ahead. Her clients were a mix of Europeans and Malagasy. She would usually entertain five in a weekend, she said. Business was easy. Yasmina and several acquaintances would position themselves along the waterfront or on the beach. It wouldn’t take long for prospective clients to approach.
Since the 2009 coup, which led to sweeping cuts in foreign aid and government services, an already precarious economic situation has deteriorated precipitously. The country’s poverty rate has increased by 10 percent or more. Many children have been forced to leave school. Roughly a third between the ages of 5 and 14 are involved in economic activities, according to UNICEF.But experts say that poverty alone is too convenient an explanation for Madagascar’s child prostitution epidemic. Many point to a growing normalization of these kinds of activities within Malagasy society.
“They no longer hide it,” said Haja Randrianianina, a UNICEF representative in Mahajanga. “It’s in the roads, in the restaurants, the bars, the nightclubs.”Steven Lauwerier, the UNICEF country representative, added that child prostitution has become something seen as “trivial.”In a number of documented cases, parents have actively solicited clients for their children. Among many Malagasy, snagging a rich vazha (foreigner) is viewed as a laudable aspiration for a young girl. In rural areas, some young girls are sold into concubinage for a period of several years to a foreigner or a wealthy cattle owner.The Malagasy government has done little in response. Advocates complain that the local police are heavily understaffed while the gendarmerie tends to be uninterested or in the pay of the criminals. Fading signs in hotels that warn against bringing back minors surely don’t strike fear in too many hearts. Most accusations are handled with a quiet payoff to the victim’s family. Complaints that do reach a magistrate often drag on endlessly without resolution.
Author : Aaron RossGrassroots initiatives like CDEF say they have started to make progress. More victims are coming forward and, for the first time in years, some offenders are being prosecuted.But judging by the scene along Mahajanga’s main strip of nightclubs on a recent Saturday night, considerable work remains to be done. Plainly underage Malagasy girls drink and mingle with foreign men more than three or four times their age.After being “extracted” from prostitution by a local children’s organization, Yasmina completed a training course to become a coiffeuse. Her goal now, she says, is to open a hair salon.But she carries the shame of her previous work along with her. At the start of the interview with GlobalPost, she denied having ever worked as a prostitute. Later, after telling her story, she opened up about the men she used to sleep with.“Every time I think about these men, I’m disgusted," she said. "Because they take advantage of our poverty.""
Published: 31 January 2014
Tuesday, 15 April 2014
|Nomawethu Moyo:Guest blogger|
I went to UWC... You meet people from everywhere there, but UWC is about tolerance, embracing difference and living with our variances so everyone retains their real name and true identity, religion, ethnicity, beliefs, and so forth... I came to college, and here I met Chinese folk who had two names; the official or "real" name in Mandarin, and another self-given one in English just because some people couldn't pronounce their names... I never thought much of it throughout my freshman and sophomore years. During the Class of 2017 welcome dinner, one Chinese boy stood up and said, "My name is Huizhong,* but it's a little difficult for some of you to pronounce it, so my English name is also Huizhong!" And then it hit me... So I had this moment of inspiration, admiration, appreciation of Huizhong's confidence and decision to stay true to his name and I just thought about how his name meant so much to him. Am I looking for the word epiphany? Last week while at work, another Chinese boy showed up, when I asked him what his name was, he just showed me his card for me to copy it and then I was hit by sadness... Isn't fitting in just an awful struggle? I wonder what it feels like to have a different name in English for that sake... Does giving yourself an English name slightly betray your true identity? If an American student with an English name were to go to China, would he/she give him/herself a Mandarin name just so everyone in China can pronounce it? Is there a muted power-play at work here or is this a way of adapting that we all should really just live with? Microaggressions maybe, or am I taking it too far?
All the same, they're more than just names and it's really polite to refer to someone by their correct name. They all hold a meaning or give one's life a sense of purpose. My name means "our mother" in a way that suggests that I have the responsibility of a caregiver. Some names carry a burden "Sidubekile" (we're suffering), some a blessing "Nomabusiso" (mother of blessings), some gratefulness "Bongani" (say thank you). They reflect our parents' experiences when they had us, they reflect our parents' wishes for us, and maybe they endorse us as members of a community.
No one is undermining a name by genuinely mispronouncing it. Some people just don't try. Some people butcher it with consonants that are not even there in the spelling of that name! Names hold so much value, they're an identity, maybe we owe them a little more respect by giving them a chance, by trying to pronounce them accurately... After-all we mispronounce at least a third of all the things we say :)
Ps. For funzies you might want to read a book called "We Need New Names,"by NoViolet Bulawayo. She has a different view though... Zimbabweans have quite a reputation for giving their kids interesting names. We joke about it all the time, should we stop? I've met Hardlife, I know many Lovemore's, and various other names but like I said they all hold some meaning beyond them just being a label for a human body. Also, interesting imagery on the covers right?
Monday, 14 April 2014
So, happy new year and yes, I'm in a kombi - I hope you know what that is... It's an 19 seater van, wait, by right it's supposed to carry 15 people but these men have found a way of fitting 4 of us in a row (instead of 3) - it's nothing new, they've been doing it since whenever! It still doesn't feel natural calling a kombi a van - here in Zim, a van is what the Murricans call a truck. Anywho, I really don't like kombis, they're our most efficient form of public transport and they suck! They are one painful reminder that I'm home, public transport, public transport, I can't ask my parents to drive me everywhere, I don't have a license and I don't have a car of my own :) So here I am, stuck in between an old man, and a young mother with her baby eating a banana. Woooo worst spot ever! The old man is lightly scented with sweat and wood smoke. The skin on his hands looks tough, he has tiny scales at the fingertips, his fingernails full of dirt. Hardworking hands; "he should be proud of them," I think to myself. He looks tired and in this moment, I love this old man, I empathize without pity but with complete understanding. I hate pity, so let me love this stranger for all that I believe he has achieved. To my right, is the young mother, I honestly think she's about my age and that makes me a little furious, but I have no right to be mad. I'll call this young mother, Sharon, I have something against that name for no reason. Why bring a child to suffer on this lousy earth? Sharon* has her baby wrapped in a damp worn out towel that used to have some kind of print on it. On her lap next to the baby, there is a small plastic bag with tomatoes, mangos, bread, and rice. The baby boy, probably about 10months old, is clumsily eating a muddy banana, his hands are well covered with the slime, his nose has some caked mucus on it and I am disgusted and disappointed to the core. I spend half my time trying to dodge the baby with a fake smile, because he wants to touch everything, he's just a baby, he isn't doing anything wrong, I just wish he was a bit cleaner. Half of the world's problems are caused by sex, sex at the wrong time, sex with the wrong people, sex without adequate knowledge, disease, overpopulation, poverty, I need not say more...
To add on to my discomfort, this driver is going a little too fast, he veers off the road to dodge a hump, he will make a left turn and a quick U-turn to dodge a red traffic light, but he has breaks, because he stops at every bus stop! At some point he's driving against oncoming traffic, he swears, he's in a rush but none of his passengers seem to be pressed for time and I wonder why he's in such a rush? My mind drifts to a young man who asked me where I had parked my car earlier when I walked out of a shop with a huge plastic bag full of braids. I was annoyed by him, how dare you ask me where I parked my car, I don't have one! He was just offering to help me carry my plastic bag "to my car," well Bhudi, I don't have one but in this moment I darn wish I had one. Someone starts coughing somewhere, it's a wet cough, and the first thing that comes to my mind is TB, I stretch my neck to check whether he/she is covering his/her mouth. I'm suddenly engulfed by fear, fear for my health and the baby's, just us two, the kombi now seems sticky, hazardously humid and infested with a concoction of pathogens, I can now smell everything and I'm seriously contemplating dropping off at the next bus stop and just calling Bakhe (my Dad) to come and pick me up. I immediately scold myself for being a pathetic nuisance - every single muscle of my body is tense, I'm holding my breath... We've got to find a way of making kombis better, somehow, better drivers, and we've got to preach the gospel of cleanliness to all. I realize I can't preach the "use public transport" gospel, all my save energy, save money, reduce air pollution here, that crap won't help if our public transport is in this state. Maybe it should start with the taxi rank? Maybe it starts with some driver education?A matter for another day, another day...
Time, place, space... It's me standing next to my great grandfather's grave completely blank, furiously blank because I'm frustrated searching for an emotion, a connection. We're visiting the family graveyard to put some flowers after the new year - no beer or anything funny here. I'm with Bakhe and my uncle, they wanted to come... I walk over to my great grandmother's grave, she died at 102, and apparently I took after her - height-wise at least, she held me when I was a baby but I never knew her. I walk around, the graves are many, the graves are many, and I'm ashamed that I still fear death, I don't want to die, at least not now. I soon realize that Bakhe and my uncle are paying attention to the males' graves, particularly age at death. I overhear them trying to recall the various causes of death...the illnesses that led to the deaths...diagnosed and undiagnosed and I hear him say, "This thing might be genetic, it's coming for us." If you read one of my most recent posts about being away from home, this scene may ring a bell... I'm immediately stricken by sorrow but happiness at the same time, they who know may take appropriate precautions & be prepared, yet at the same time I have faith they'll be spared from the ordeal. My thoughts drift of to undiagnosed illnesses that my nation suffers from, the curable and incurable, the discomfort that we live with but shouldn't be living with, the lack of money or the lack of knowledge, the small things that kill people but shouldn't be killing people... It's a moment of gratefulness for the little I know, and a moment of sadness about the need for others to know, and it all occurs to me as I'm standing in my family graveyard, somewhat anticipating my own death, my reunion with my Saviour, and in this moment, it seems bittersweet.
Friday, 11 April 2014
Outrage over Health ministry’s move on child contraceptives... (Link to story)
And, Oh the abstinence message! Yes, we've got to teach people to abstain but if it's not working, we have to admit that hammering the nail on a desk won’t keep the chair intact. If previous attempts at preaching abstinence have been futile, let’s resort to something else that's going to be effective instead! Maybe this and some sex education all over the place is it…
I'm not sure about how the availability of condoms to 10 year olds plays into statutory rape laws etc... It may just force parents to talk about sex or at least we can be assured that if underage kids have sex it will be safe sex. In general, there's some shame associated with using contraceptives and I think this whole issue might be targeting that bigger picture...I have friends who're ashamed of buying condoms, they do but they're so bashful about it or they don’t want to be seen doing it. If the use of contraceptives wasn’t such a hush hush matter maybe this wouldn’t be so. Another common scenario is when unmarried couples cease using condoms because at some point using a condom seems to suggest that you don't trust him/her and that's where the pills are supposed to kick in (without getting tested)! Maybe if we’d been exposed to contraceptives and taught differently this wouldn’t be happening. There are also those "pharmacists" (some of them are just tellers really) who give girls a hard time when they buy morning after pills and I think that's great. HIV is here to stay. We’re not going to overcome this pandemic unless we change a lot of things that are amiss in our communities and I believe that getting rid of the stigma around the use of contraceptives is one of those steps…
Thursday, 10 April 2014