Poverty-stricken parents of girls as young as fourteen in Swaziland are giving them to soldiers for sex in exchange for food, a newspaper reported.
The Observer of Saturday newspaper in Swaziland reported (6 May 2017) that members of the Umbuto Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) have been accused of taking advantage of poor families all over the kingdom’s remote rural areas. They give away food parcels to young and needy girls in exchange for sexual favours.
The newspaper reported, ‘Some families have allegedly adopted the system of giving away their young girls to the cunning soldiers in exchange for food in their homes.’ The parcels are said to contain mealie-meal, chunks of meat, beans and vegetables.
Nearly seven in ten people in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, live in dire poverty, with incomes of less than US$2 per day. About 26 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition.
A health caregiver in the Lubombo region told the newspaper, ‘It is an open secret that soldiers are having a field day all over the country. As health caregivers we are worried as we come across a number of cases where we feel the young girls are being abused.’
She added, ‘Even 14-year-old children are sold out cheap and this is painful.’
The newspaper quoted a soldier it did not name saying, ‘We get just about any girl we want. Nobody forces anyone but we reach a mutual agreement with the girls.’
The health caregiver said, ‘Some of them even loiter around the army barracks and camps just to be noticed by the cunning soldiers who then pounce on them in exchange for food that they duly need.’
She said, ‘What is more agonising is that some families even send their young girls to loiter around where the soldiers [are] to be noticed so that they can bring something home for their entire families to eat.’
The health caregiver said, ‘We have to take care of them when they acquire STDs [sexually-transmitted diseases] especially since most them are still very young and afraid to go straight to the hospital or are just ignorant of their situation.
‘But because of their poverty plight they are forced to engage in acts that are immoral and dangerous to them.’
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