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The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025              

Republic of Zimbabwe

The government of Zimbabwe faces a wide variety of difficult economic problems as it struggles with an unsustainable fiscal deficit, an overvalued official exchange rate, hyperinflation, and bare store shelves. Its 1998-2002 involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo drained hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy. The government's land reform program, characterized by chaos and violence, has badly damaged the commercial farming sector, the traditional source of exports and foreign exchange and the provider of 400,000 jobs, turning Zimbabwe into a net importer of food products.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Zimbabwe

CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Zimbabwe.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated, misleading or even false.   No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of child prostitution are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got started, how they survive, and how some succeed in leaving.  Perhaps your paper could focus on runaways and the abuse that led to their leaving.  Other factors of interest might be poverty, rejection, drug dependence, coercion, violence, addiction, hunger, neglect, etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the manipulative and dangerous adults who control this activity.  There is a lot to the subject of Child Prostitution.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims

International Organization for Migration
Counter-trafficking hotline:
0800 32 22222
Country code: 263



A 15-Year-Old's Story of Prostitution - Poverty and cynicism in Harare, Zimbabwe keep young women from escaping

Nelson G. Katsande, OhmyNews, NELKA, 2006-August-15

[accessed 18 August 2011]

Tambudzai, age 15, grew up on a farm in Mazowe, northeast of Harare. Her mother died in a bus accident when she was barely six. Her father was a farm laborer, and after the farm was sold to new owners they were forced to leave. Her father died a few months later after succumbing to a bout of malaria.

Following his death, poverty was unavoidable. Tambudzai was expelled from school for non-payment of fees, and none of her father's relatives offered to help. Her dream of becoming a nurse had been shattered. Left to fend for herself, she was lured into the venality of city life and found herself in Harare.  There she met other girls of her age who were already into prostitution, and she gave in to irresistible temptation.


*** ARCHIVES ***

Hunger and poverty make young girls sell their bodies

Jeffrey Moyo,D+C Development and Cooperation, 15 February 2021

[accessed 15 February 2021]

As Zimbabwe’s economic crisis deepens, the country is seeing an increase in child prostitution, sometimes involving girls as young as 12.

Hungry and desperate child prostitutes are appearing on streets all over the country, not only in mining towns. They ply their trade in in the capital Harare and in remote border towns frequented by long-distance truckers.

Many of the girls have dropped out of school, as their families cannot pay school fees. In 2019, about 60% of Zimbabwe’s children in primary school were sent home for failing to pay fees, according to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee. Others, like Tracy and Melisa, have been orphaned.

ECPAT Regional Overview: The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Africa [PDF]

ECPAT International, November 2014

[accessed 10 September 2020]

Maps sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism (SECTT), online child sexual exploitation (OCSE), trafficking of children for sexual purposes, sexual exploitation of children through prostitution, and child early and forced marriage (CEFM). Other topics include gender inequality, armed conflicts, natural disasters, migration, and HIV/AIDS.

Human Rights Reports » 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 10, 2020

[accessed 10 September 2020]

SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN - Conviction of statutory rape, legally defined as sexual intercourse with a child younger than age 12, carries a fine of 2,000 Zimbabwe dollars (RTGS) ($125), up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. A person in possession of child pornography may be charged with public indecency; convictions result in a 600 RTGS dollars ($40) fine, imprisonment for up to six months, or both. A conviction of procuring a child younger than age 16 for purposes of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct results in a fine up to 5,000 RTGS dollars ($300), up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. Persons charged with facilitating the prostitution of a child often were also charged with statutory rape. A parent or guardian convicted of allowing a child younger than age 18 to associate with or become a prostitute may face up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Girls from towns bordering South Africa, Zambia, and Mozambique were subjected to prostitution in brothels that catered to long-distance truck drivers. Increasing economic hardships contributed to more girls engaging in prostitution.

2018 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2019

[accessed 10 September 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 1241]

Zimbabwean children living in border towns are trafficked to Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia, where they become victims of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in domestic work. Zimbabwean children, especially orphans, are sometimes lured by relatives with the promise of education or adoption, but instead are recruited to work within the country as domestic workers or forced to work in mining, drug smuggling, or other illegal activities. (2,28) In addition, the deterioration of Zimbabwe’s economy, along with drought and cholera outbreaks, increase the vulnerability of children to labor exploitation. (29-31) An NGO conducted research that revealed that girls under age 18 engaged in commercial sex due to push factors, such as the breakdown of the family unit, poverty, and gender-based violence. (4,32)

The Curse of Child Prostitution

Vimbai Komani, The Herald, 10 April 2009

[accessed 18 August 2011]

"My heart bleeds when I see young girls of primary school level engaging in prostitution. More hotels in the country have become notorious in entertaining these young girls that are seen loitering at their foyers and their premises as they search for clients," says Trevor Mutunami from Nyamapanda, a town bordering Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Child prostitution, however, is not only about little girls as young boys are also increasingly being targeted.   The International Organisation for Migration has identified this as a growing problem in Chiredzi where boys are leaving for South Africa where they get work as "comforters", mainly for widows.

AIDS, Pregnancy and Poverty Trap Ever More African Girls

Sharon LaFraniere, New York Times, Patrice Lumumba Mozambique, June 3, 2005

[accessed 18 August 2011]

But for the last 25 years, the trends had been positive. African girls, like girls elsewhere, were marrying later, and a growing percentage were in school.  The AIDS epidemic now threatens to take away those hard-won gains. Orphaned and impoverished by the deaths of parents, girls here are being propelled into sex at shockingly early ages to support themselves, their siblings and, all too often, their own children.

In Zimbabwe, a new UNICEF study has found that orphaned girls are three times more likely to become infected than are girls whose parents are alive. In Zambia, orphaned girls are the first to be withdrawn from school.

Five Years After Stockholm [PDF]

ECPAT: Fifth Report on implementation of the Agenda for Action

ECPAT International, November 2001

[accessed 13 September 2011]

[B] COUNTRY UPDATES – ZIMBABWE – Reports indicate that CSEC is a rising problem in Zimbabwe. In recent years, poor macroeconomic performance and political instability have had an adverse effect on the welfare of children and have thus increased their vulnerability to CSEC.

CHILDREN: Those The Anti-AIDS Campaigners Forget

Isabella Matambanadzo, Inter Press Service News Agency IPS, Harare, 5 June 1996

[accessed 18 August 2011]

Generally, the boys do odd jobs such as guarding parked cars, while the girls beg.  But destitution transforms many children of both sexes into easy prey for people who sexually exploit them in exchange for a little money, warm clothes, a pair of old shoes or simply a hot meal. The children's immaturity and powerlessness make them less likely than, for example, commercial sex workers, to insist on condoms. This increases their chances of being infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV.

Analysis of the Situation of Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Eastern and Southern Africa Region

Draft Consultancy Report Prepared as a component of the UNICEF – ESARO  & ANPPCAN Partnership Project on Sexual Exploitation and Children’s Rights, October, 2001, Nairobi, Kenya

[accessed 18 August 2011]

[4.1] FACTORS PREDISPOSING CHILDREN TO COMMERCIAL SEXUAL EXPLOITATION – INTRODUCTION -  [7] Demand for Sexual Services: The phenomenon of sugar daddies and sugar mummies is common in the region in countries such as Kenya, Swaziland, Lesotho, South Africa, and Mozambique and is steadily rising in Zimbabwe.  Children are wooed by gifts, presents, money and other material rewards in return to sex. Sex tourism is growing due to an influx of tourists in the region. Pimps, madams, middlemen and parents or others facilitate child prostitution in many societies within the region.  Child prostitution occurs in brothels, massage parlors, streets, bars and discotheques. Lower prices charged by young girls sometimes fuel the demand for child prostitutes.  The girl prostitutes are easily controlled by bar owners and ‘madams’ and hence owners of brothels seek out young girls since they can easily be exploited.




The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 17 January 2011]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Over the past few years, the number of children living on the streets has continued to rise and there are reports of children involved in commercial sexual exploitation. Zimbabwe is considered a source and transit country for a small number of children trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation. Within Zimbabwe, a small number of children are reportedly trafficked internally to southern border towns for commercial sexual exploitation.

CHILD LABOR LAWS AND ENFORCEMENT - The Penal Code prohibits children from visiting or residing in a brothel, and prohibits anyone from causing the seduction, abduction, or prostitution or children. Under the Sexual Offenses Act of 2001, a person convicted of prostituting a child under the age of 12 years is subject to a fine of up to ZWD 35,000 (USD 6.00) or imprisonment of up to 7 years.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 11 February 2020]

CHILDREN - There were an estimated 1.3 million HIV/AIDS orphans by year's end, and the number was increasing. The number of AIDs orphans (including children who lost one as well as both parents) was about 10 percent of the country's population. Many grandparents were left to care for the young, and, in some cases, children or adolescents headed families and were forced to work to survive. AIDS orphans and foster children were at high risk for child abuse. Some children were forced to turn to prostitution as a means of income. According to local custom, other family members inherit before children, leaving many children destitute. Many such children were unable to obtain birth certificates, which then prevented them from obtaining social services.

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS - There were reports of child prostitution, trafficking in children, and child labor. NGOs reported an increase in child prostitution since Operation Restore Order. As with adults, reports suggested that those children in desperate economic circumstances, especially those in families headed by children, were most at risk. One local NGO reported that traffickers took girls from rural areas to city brothels in cities under the false pretenses of job or marriage promises. The NGO reported that rural girls were sometimes trafficked to farms as agricultural labor or to urban areas as domestic labor, where they were sometimes sexually abused.

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