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Yei authorities launch clampdown on child prostitution

Alison Lemeri
Officials in Yei announced a clampdown on underage children hanging out in lodges, nightclubs, hotels and video halls to quell prostitution and the spread of HIV.
26.05.2015  |  Yei
The Dream Land Nursery and Primary School, a school for orphans in Yei Sanja Siri area, May 9, 2015.
The Dream Land Nursery and Primary School, a school for orphans in Yei Sanja Siri area, May 9, 2015.

Yei Municipal Mayor Santo Paul Lasuba ordered that any under-age child found in the prohibited places would be arrested and put in police custody. Parents of any child who is arrested would be charged 2,000 South Sudanese Pounds (US$ 683) bail, while the owner of a business premise would have to pay SSP 3,000.

The mayor said that letting children work in the prohibited places makes them vulnerable to abuses like prostitution. We will keep on finding children who enter hotels, lodges or video halls. All this is prohibited,” he told The Niles. We are not going to stop with children under 18 years, but will move against people practicing open prostitution.”

We will move
against people practicing open prostitution.”
Santo Paul Lasuba
In its first operation, authorities arrested about thirty children and have since released some of them in the presence of the parents. In a related incident, the authority arrested 45 commercial sex workers, including 27 women and 18 men who were mostly under the age of 18, according colonel Jeremiah Maker Nai, the County Police Commissioner.

A few days later, the commercial sex workers were released and warned not to return to their previous places of work. The authority threatened to deport any foreigner involved and said it would close down a lodge or hotel permitting prostitution, Mayor Santo said in a separate address.

Juma Denis Daniel, the Municipal Inspector for Gender, Child and Social Welfare, said that some of the 30 children apprehended were orphans and do not have anyone to pay bail.

Some are vulnerable. There are some children who are really orphans,” he said after visiting them in custody.

Scovia Lenea, the Manager of Rajaf Safari Lodge, recalled how she chased away a school girl who wanted to wait for her boyfriend in her lodge. She came in uniform then later she changed into trousers and put the uniform in a bag. But when I asked her: 'you went in your uniform, why are you coming out in this?' She said she was waiting for a boyfriend coming from Juba. I told her, 'no, not in my place' and chased her out,” she said.

Scovia said schools’ administrations are partly to blame for failing to set or implement strict rules restricting unnecessary movement of pupils and students.

Seja Guest House Manager, Amule Gift, said he welcomed the new order, calling for improved networking with authorities if they have trouble.

Sometimes these young guys they are rude. If we tell them, they start to undermine you,” Amule told a meeting between lodge managers and municipal authority officials.

Nevertheless, a Child Protection Officer in Yei River County’s Department of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, Victoria Michael, called for action against business people making children work and denying them their right to education.

She recommended that the government should employ security personnel in lodges to arrest children wanting to work.

Most of the street children in the town sleep under vehicles, in dirty places. Those places are not good. Some children are orphans”, she said, adding that authorities should build a reformatory centre for children.

Many parents have expressed their support for the order and called for thorough implementation.

Taban Moses, a parent and resident of Tarawa area of Yei, said the effort was long overdue. I think the authority has done well. Many times we hear about rapes, early pregnancies and so on, not because parents sometimes do not look after them, but because they have gone out of control,” Taban said.

Many times we
hear about rapes,
early pregnancies
and so on.”
Taban Moses
But some parents said the law was not being properly implemented and did not bring about justice for rapists.

The police gender desk could not provide current child abuses records but it reported that last year as of September 2014, 12 rape cases had been committed by people around the ages of 18 to 30 against children ranging from 12 to 17 years.

It further said rape, adultery, early marriages cases and violence against women and children were widespread.

In early 2014 the local community closed down a popular nightclub disco hall in Yei, which was known for rapes and defilement cases, fanning fears about rapid HIV spread and the contamination of nearby water sources with condoms. The building was later turned into a school.

South Sudan has a national HIV prevalence of 2.6 percent according to the 2012 antenatal care (ANC) sentinel surveillance. The survey indicates that the Western Equatoria State has the highest prevalence of 6.8 percent while Northern Bahr El-Ghazal State has the lowest rate at 0.3 percent.