Schoolgirls aged 15 and 16 in Swaziland (eSwatini) sold themselves for sex to feed their families while schools were closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
They said they were not attending schools now they had started to reopen because they could not afford to pay fees.
An investigation by the eSwatini Observer in the Manzini region found girls had become sex workers to feed their families after parents became unemployed because of Government-enforced shutdowns of the economy.
It reported, ‘They said they did not resort to sex work willingly, but were forced by the circumstances at their homes and were not able to gain admission in schools because of the fees that are demanded at registration. The girls mentioned that due to the extreme nature of their situation, they would sometimes go to bed hungry and they cannot even afford the facemasks as stipulated in the COVID-19 (coronavirus) regulations.’
The Swazi Minister of Education Lady Howard Mabuza said, ‘They are lying if they say they could not be admitted at schools because of their financial situation.’
Local community police said they would arrest girls engaged in sex work.
The legal age of consent for sexual activities in Swaziland is 18.
Girls in Swaziland have been traded for sex in the past. In May 2017 the Observer reported members of the Umbuto Swaziland Defence Force (the Swazi army) had been accused of taking advantage of poor families all over the kingdom’s remote rural areas. They gave food parcels to young and needy girls in exchange for sexual favours.
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.
In the Manzini urban area about 20 percent of the population (26,336 people) are estimated to be facing high levels of acute food insecurity, according to the IPC Acute Food Insecurity Analysis.
Parents trade own girls for sex
Soldiers sex of food with girls, 14