Gender Gender

Abusers should be punished

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Children's Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
OF LATE, numerous media reports have shown that young people, especially girls, are still at risk of being abused by those in position of power or authority. These cases are not only peculiar to Zambia, but have made headlines world over ranging from the education sector, entertainment industry, politics and even in sports. In some instances, this has led to the fall from grace of perpetrators of the vice.

The latest of such cases is that of an American gymnastics team doctor, who was last week sentenced to between 40 and 175 years, after he was found guilty of sexually abusing young female gymnasts, who were entrusted to his care.

For over 25 years, he was abusing his victims some of whom were as young as six, under the pretext that he was performing his duties as team doctor. In passing down the sentence, the presiding judge basically told him that she had signed his death sentence following accounts from about 160 of his victims.
Another gymnast said she was only six years old when the doctor started molesting her, blaming him for her father’s suicide in 2016 when he realised that he had dismissed his daughter’s cry for help for the abuse she endured from a man who was held in such high esteem. It is possible the father felt that he had let down his daughter at a time when she desperately needed his protection.
It took one brave girl to speak out before his other victims could muster their courage to expose the sexual predator that eventually led to prosecution and conviction.
The entertainment industry also had their own story to tell of a film producer and executive who was alleged to have abused more than 90 women over a period of 30 years. It also took one woman to speak out before other victims could open up.
The scandal was the catalyst to similar allegations against some powerful men around the world leading to most of them losing their positions of authority and power. Scores of women were motivated to share their experiences on social media under the hash tag #Me Too.
This brings to mind a video that recently went viral on social media of a man who is alleged to have slept with a girl believed to be younger than 16 years.
It was disturbing to read some of the comments that were posted by women vilifying the young girl instead of being outraged standing in solidarity with her.
This is especially that the alleged abuser was taking advantage of the girl’s vulnerability and age by promising to provide her financial and material needs.
As Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) executive director Patricia Ndhlovu noted, the law is very clear, whether the girl consented or not in exchange for money or material possessions. The girl deserved empathy from everyone, especially the womenfolk.
It is time to speak out loudly and support victims of sexual abuse instead of ridiculing them. We can take a leaf from women in America who have stood up with one voice to condemn various wrongs against girls and women to ensure that their rights, regardless of social status, background, political affiliation or colour, are upheld.
It is time to name and shame those who want to abuse their position of authority or power whether it is in the community, workplace or any other sphere. Abusers in whatever form, should never be protected because of the long-term psychological damage they inflict on their victims, especially those who are much younger.
Furthermore, those who condone such abuses by turning a blind eye should also be held liable as was the case in Michigan State University Board that has been forced to resign for not protecting the young girls.
In this particular case, the state prosecutor gave tribute to journalists who diligently worked without fear to ensure that the man was brought to book in spite of the challenges they encountered in their quest to expose the abuse.
The safety of all children, especially girls, from all forms of abuse by those in positions of authority or power should be everyone’s priority.
Remember, children are our future. Until next week, take care.
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