Man entices three young girls with money for sex
MASERU – When students’ lives were upended on an unprecedented scale by the COVID-19 lockdown which forced schools to shut down from March last year, girls found themselves vulnerable to sexual exploitation at home.
Some of the classes resumed in October last year, meaning all students spent about five consecutive months at home. In a shocking incident at Ha Ratšiu, a village on the peripheries of Teyateyaneng town in Berea, an older man according to the village chief and councilor, enticed three young girls with money in exchange for sex.
When the chief, Ratšiu Ratšiu and councilor ‘Matšepo Mosoeunyane Makhetha, reported the matter to the police they were told that there was nothing that could be done as the three alleged victims had themselves not reported the abuse.
“We are talking about an old man. He slept with these three little girls in the presence one another and he would give them money. When we reported this, we were told that those girls should report the matter themselves,” Ratšiu said last Saturday when Public Eye visited his village.
“These girls are children and this man is old, probably my age mate. The girls are reluctant to go to the police because apparently this man gives them money. This is one of the challenges that were brought by the closure of schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” he added.
His statements were substantiated by Makhetha who told this publication that she was aware that those girls were being sexually exploited by an older man in exchange for money and said she accompanied the chief to the police. “We were turned away. They wanted the girls to report the matter themselves,” she said.
“This was happening because these girls were not going to school and spent most of the time in that house. So this man would regularly visit them and sleep with them, and we knew about it. That is when we decided to report it to the police,” she added.
World Health Organisation (WHO) defines sexual exploitation as actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, or trust, for sexual purposes.
It defines sexual abuse as actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions.
Sexual exploitation and abuse includes sexual relations with a child, in any context, defined as human being below the age of 18 years. Turning away people who seek to report sexual exploitation of
children could be seen as a bad behaviour by police which could erase decades of progress done by the government to protection children.
Lesotho has in the last two decades made significant and admirable strides in relation to providing protection and welfare for children.
In 2002, government established the Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) within the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS).
CGPU deals mainly with protection of children, women, and men who suffered from gender based violence by investigating cases and ensuring prosecution of cases, as well as sensitizing the communities on issues of gender based violence.
In 2011, parliament enacted the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act, to extend, promote and protect the rights of children as defined in the 1989 United Nations Convention on the rights of the child, the 1990 African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child and other international instruments, protocols, standards and rules on the protection and welfare of children to which Lesotho is a signatory.
In this act, abuse in relation to a child is defined as any form of harm or ill-treatment deliberately inflicted on a child, including among others, sexually abusing a child or exposing or subjecting a child to behavior that may socially, emotionally, physically or psychologically harm the child.
Section 36 (1) of the act states that if a member of the community is of the opinion that a child is physically, psychologically or emotionally injured as a result of being ill-treated, neglected, abandoned or exposed to intoxication or is sexually abused, “he shall immediately inform the chief, police or the Department of Social Welfare”.
Subsection (2) states that a member of the community who fails to comply with subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a community service.
Police spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, told Public Eye yesterday that when dismissed by junior police officers, chief Ratšiu, and councilor Makhetha, should have reported that the matter to the district commanding officer if they were convinced that the alleged victims are children.
“A chief is a person of higher social status and knows better than most ordinary people in the community and he should not have relented. This, however, does not mean that police officers who dismissed him were right, they were wrong. There have been weaknesses from both sides,” Mopeli said.
“Now we cannot even find out what actually happened because it is going to be the chief’s voice against police’s voices. But if he had reported this to the district commanding officer, we would know who to go to and find out what actually happened,” he added.
Mopeli also indicated that if the alleged victims have reached the age of consent – the age at which a person is considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts – police could not do anything if they did not report the matter.