Online sexual violence against children continues to be prevalent in Zimbabwe.
According to the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare’s national policy dialogue on ending violence against children, qualitative rapid assessment report of online sexual violence against women and children in Zimbabwe, 553 children were victims of online sexual violence in Zimbabwe as of 14 December 2020, with Harare and Bulawayo being the most affected cities.
The report said this was due to higher density, connectivity and higher levels of digital skills and competencies, compared to other provinces.
Harare recorded a total of 342 cases of online sexual violence which include child pornography, access to sexually explicit material, sexual extortion, online grooming for sexual purposes, online sexual abuse and online sexual harassment in both men and women, while Bulawayo recorded 81 cases.
Other provinces recorded a total of 130 cases of the same acts but inclusive of live streaming of child sexual abuse which has not been recorded in Harare and Bulawayo.
The report also highlighted that the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) reported 31 cases of online sexual violence since 2017 plus 12 cases which have been reported informally, showing that cases of online sexual violence are not being prioritised enough.
The government through the ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, has been implementing the National Action Plan on orphans and children since 2005 to date and are currently in the process of developing a successor programme to the National Action Plan.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over the past 20 years, internet technology has dramatically impacted the way in which children learn, interact with each other and the wider world, and are entertained.
The continuous evolution of television, smartphones, social networks and videogames is a double-edged sword which can be as detrimental at it can be beneficial.