Rise in Child Rapes in Zambia Traced to AIDS Cure Myth, Some Say
December 22, 2003
Some AIDS advocates say that a recent "surge" in child rapes in Zambia and other parts of Africa has been caused by a belief among residents that a person can cure AIDS by having sex with a minor or with their own child, Reuters/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Child rape has become a "serious problem" in Zambia, where one in five adults is HIV-positive, according to Reuters/Inquirer. Between January and June, more than 400 cases of child rape were recorded in the country, up from 238 cases during the same period last year. Some say that traditional healers, from whom most people seek out medical advice, are to blame, according to Reuters/Inquirer. "Traditional healers are misleading some rapists that HIV infection can be reversed if a man has sex with a minor. ... It is a tragedy and something that is endangering the lives of our children," Ireen Nkunda, a counselor for abused children at the Young Women's Christian Association in Lusaka, Zambia, said. However, Rodwell Vongo, head of the Traditional Healers Association of Zambia, said, "We have been educating [traditional healers] not to mislead people that they can cure AIDS." Police spokesperson Brenda Muntemba said that weak laws prohibit the police from taking action if an offender is released on bail, adding, "Our court system and even the prisons need serious reforms." In addition, Zambian law prohibits involuntary HIV testing, meaning that adults accused of raping a child cannot be tested, according to Miriam Chimpo, an adolescent and reproductive health specialist at Zambia's Central Board of Health, said. George Kunda, the country's minister of legal affairs, said that the government is rewriting its Rape Act and plans to introduce "serious sentences" for people who commit child rape, according to Reuters/Inquirer (Shacinda, Reuters/Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/19).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.