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Woodlands sex binge shows absence of responsible parenting – ZCEA

ZAMBIA Civic Education Association (ZCEA) executive director Judith Mulenga says the ‘arrest’ of 70 ‘children’ involved in a sex party in Lusaka is symptomatic of the absentee and irresponsible parenting prevailing in Zambia today.

On Friday evening, police apprehended about 70 girls and boys in Lusaka’s Woodlands area for allegedly engaging in illicit activities, including sex and beer drinking.

Police spokesperson Esther Mwaata-Katongo, in an interview, said the boys and girls aged between 17 and 20 years were picked up from a house on Lake Road after a concerned citizen in the neighbourhood raised alarm.

She disclosed that police officers who rushed to the scene found used condoms and empty beer bottles littered around the place while the owner of the house was at large.

“There is a house in the neighbourhood in Woodlands area which young boys and girls use for illicit acts. Yesterday (Friday), a report was received from a concerned citizen and about 70 of them were rounded up by police and picked,” said Mwaata-Katongo, adding that the juveniles, who were believed to be school-going, were charged with conduct likely to cause a breach of peace and released later upon paying admission of guilt fees.

“They were locked up but the detention facilities were not enough to accommodate all of them. They were then charged with conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace, for which they paid admission of guilt fees [and] then released. Police are looking for the owner of the house. This happened between 17:00 and 18:00 hours [on Friday]. Some bottles of beer and used condoms were found at the same premises.”

In reaction, Mulenga stated in a press statement yesterday that from ZCEA’s experience of engaging with children, there was a divide between them (children) and their parents or guardians.

“[The] ‘arrest of 70 children’ in a sex orgy notwithstanding the dreadfulness of the adolescents’ conduct, is symptomatic of the absentee and irresponsible parenting prevailing in Zambia today. It is further the result of government’s failure to provide child-friendly recreation facilities in communities,” Mulenga stated.

She noted that there was very little communication between children and their parents beyond the former receiving instructions from the latter.

“Ask any parent their child’s favourite colour or favourite food and they are blank! There is no bond between children and their parents; parenting has been left to the children themselves to self-parent, television, computer games, Facebook and maids. How then do you expect such ‘parents’ to know what their child is up to? Adolescence is a difficult age and most adults remember how turbulent those years were for them and how there was often times no child-friendly adult to turn to but fellow adolescents also going through the same difficulties in their lives,” Mulenga explained, adding that the right to recreation, leisure and play was enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“So it is the responsibility of the parents to guide their children in the enjoyment of their rights. Furthermore, the same Convention provides for the protection of children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.”

She further stated that the government, through the Ministry of Local Government, had failed to provide recreation facilities and that the ministry had taken play parks and spaces meant for recreation and play and either sold them to utuntemba (makeshift shops) or bar owners or leased to private business people who then charged fees that children could not afford.

“We spoke against this practice and warned of the possible consequences such as what we have begun to see but no one paid attention to us. Government should request its builder-happy-ally Avic International to immediately embark on constructions of play parks throughout the country or better still annex these play parks to centrally-located schools,” Mulenga stated.

“That said, in the best interest of the children, this and similar incidents should not end in children paying admission of guilt fines under the ever-vague umbrella criminal charge of ‘conduct likely to cause a breach of peace.’ This is an issue to be dealt with under the Juveniles Act. These children are in need of care by the State because their parents have or are failing to care for them.”

She stressed that the Woodlands sex binge ought to be treated as a test case study of not only how to get to the root causes of such awful trends among children but to also eliminate them.

“Letting the trend to continue is ghastly to contemplate and Zambia may be looking at mandatory testing of HIV way beyond 2030! Furthermore, the actual ages of all children involved should be established. I personally doubt whether all the 70 plus arrested are persons below the age of 18 years. All parents and guardians should be held accountable and them and their children together should be compelled to pay and attend counselling sessions either on a daily basis such as the one provided by Serenity Harm Reduction Programme Zambia (SHARPZ) in Roma township or boarding ones by the Riverside Wellness Centre Zambia off Kafue Road. That way, the focus will be on physical and psychological recovery and social re-integration of these wayward adolescents, as provided for by Article 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” stated Mulenga.

“Hopefully, through counseling, they may complete their adolescence and transition into constructive members of society. If the parents refuse to undertake the counselling programmes, then they should be slapped with criminal negligence under Section 238 of the Penal Code.”

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