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    Mother forces 16 year old daughter to sleep with her male friends so they can eat

    An increasing number of mothers in the Free State are pushing their young daughters into prostitution, according to the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task (Sweat) Group’s Free State and North West provincial manager Sogomotso Ntlhaile.

    In Bethlehem in the Free State, 16-year-old Thato* spends her afternoons doing sexual favours for her mother’s male friends instead of doing her school work, she said.

    “If I don’t, we won’t eat,” said the teen, who added that her mother forced her into prostitution at the age of 14. She earns about R100 for each man she sleeps with.

     “My mom told me that I have to use my body so that we don’t starve,” Thato said. “Every time her male friends come to our house, they sit around and drink. When I get home from school, my mom will come to me in my room and tell me ‘You should prepare yourself’ for a man,” she said.

    “I started doing this two years ago, I would sleep with these older men and they would give me money, which my mom and I will use to buy food. At first it felt so weird, but I got used to it.”

    The soft-spoken teen’s case in not an unusual one, with underage prostitution in the Free State long seen as a problem. As early as 2013, the government was called to intervene, but Ntlhaile said it has had little or no effect.

    “There was more of an approach of arrest instead of rescue by some police, and that has not worked. Women don’t see any other option of finding a way to provide for their families. They think the best way is to use kids. Ignorance plays a part.”

    Sweat advocates for the decriminalisation of adult, consensual sex work to protect sex workers and clients. However, the organisation has been clear that sex work is not the same as child prostitution, which it condemns.

    “It is so sad that these girls engage in sex and are forced into sexual activities at such an early age,” Ntlhaile said. “It exposes them to illnesses such as sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and cervical cancer.”

    Some types of cervical cancer can be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted sexually. In 2014, the country began vaccinating girls between the ages of 9 and 12 against HPV to help protect them from cervical cancer.

    “Socially, their bright futures are stamped out, as many end up dropping out of school or failing because of underperformance,” said Ntlhaile, who added that sexually exploited children face not only disease, but violence too.

    “In the Free State, with many standing and waiting for clients on dark roads, they are ultimately paying with their lives. These girls’ lives are in danger.”

    The teen said she always uses protection. “I fear for my life, I don’t want to get sick and I am also preventing pregnancy at the clinic. I wish I could stop, but I can’t – I eat because of that money.”

    The mother, when approached, was angry and defensive. “There is nothing I can do. I didn’t go to school, so where will I work? There is nothing we can do – I am doing this for her. I know it’s not right but what can I do?”

    The Department of Social Welfare in Bethlehem had not commented by the time of publication, but a social worker who works in the area said: “It’s not fair what the mother is doing to the child. She is the one who’s supposed to take care of the child, not the other way round.

    “We normally take the children to a place of safety to give them a better life in our centres.”

    No real names used.

    Originally from IOL

    This is sad!!

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