THE Media Networking on Child Rights and Development (MNCRD) says private boarding houses have become sex dens for children who are in various learning institutions. In an interview, MNCRD executive director Henry Kabwe said the high number of private boarding houses and the mushrooming of unlicensed liquor stores in the country were the major drivers of teenage pregnancies and early sex among school-going children.
He said under-age children were having access to alcohol and liquor store owners were not sending them away, fearing loss of business.
“There are so many drivers that are making it possible for children to get pregnant at an early stage. We have seen that access to alcohol has not been controlled in the country. There is no order; when it comes to selling the drink, many unlicenced liquor stores are providing the drink, children are having access to nightclubs where they engage in sex. The council needs to stiffen laws where children cannot access these premises, private boarding houses are the most common places where men have taken advantage of girls and a lot of them are getting pregnant,” Kabwe said.
He said there was need for the government to come up with a policy that would wipe out such facilities and ensure that more boarding schools were built to help lower the number of girls falling pregnant whilst in boarding houses.
Kabwe said this would protect children against older men who frequented boarding houses in search for sex. And Kabwe said there was need for the government and key stakeholders to come up with better strategies to ensure zero pregnancies in primary schools.
He also noted that teachers had not done enough to educate pupils in sexual reproductive health rights. Kabwe said the topic had been sidelined because the teachers were finding it uncomfortable to talk to their pupils about sex.
He said it was important that the topic was taught in schools as parents were also finding it challenging to discuss matters of sex with their children. Kabwe also urged the media to cover children in a positive manner and not only focus on defilement cases that placed them as victims.
“The media provides a platform for citizens to engage in various issues and we know that issues to do with children have not been prioritised in the media and there is need for them to ensure that we increase coverage of children in the media and that should be in an ethical manner as statistics are showing that the media are only covering 15 per cent of children issues and 80 per cent of those stories are based on child abuse and defilement, which are negative things. We need to ensure that we increase coverage of educational aspects and sexuality issues which are very important components which the media should be able to look at,” said Kabwe.