Poverty fans child prostitution

Poverty fans child prostitution

A 15-year-old girl, disguised as Alinafe since she is a minor, has lost count of men she has slept with in the past two years.

“It started with merely dating boys almost my age to men as old as my father,” she says.

Girls from poor background are at risk of sliding into child prostitution

The girl from Mtandire Township in Lilongwe quit school in Standard Seven to exchange her body for money.

“I found myself spending nights in dark places engaging in transactional sex with multiple men,” she recounts.

Alinafe recalls sleeping with six men a night, billing between K2 000 and K5 000.

“My father lost his job due to chronic illness and my mother, a housewife, could not meet our needs. We were surviving on handouts from friends and relatives,” she narrates.

Alinafe says she was forced to drop out of school due to lack of educational needs, school funds and food.

“I was tired of going to school on an empty stomach and in dirty clothes,” she says.

The country’s penal laws prohibit sex with a girl aged below 18, but Alinafe’s mother kept mum on her daughter’s escapades as the entire family benefited from her proceeds.

“At first I was so bitter and I locked her out when she came home around dawn. But I painfully opted to keep quiet since she brought us money for food and other needs. It became a norm,” says her mother.

Alinafe has four siblings.

The mother of five was worried that her daughter could get pregnant or sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Alinafe’s turning point was in November 2023 when her sexual client’s wife assaulted her.

She also recalls the agony of sleeping with older men who at times left her injured.

“Some men took advantage of my age and refused to pay for the services,” she recalls. “I wanted out, but it wasn’t easy.”

Her turnaround came when her neighbour Divason Satha counselled and encouraged her to return to school.

She is now in Standard Eight.

Her story shines a light on the grim reality faced by Malawian girls trapped in sexual exploitation in peri-urban communities.

Satha says Alinafe’s tale reflects how systemic challenges rooted in poverty, lack of parental guidance and community indifference push vulnerable children into exploitative sexual transactions.

Enthused by the passion to rescue girls from rights violations, he founded Girls Shine Foundation which now works with over 50 girls, some as young as 10. Together with community leaders and the police, they have nullified seven child marriages and talked over a dozen out of illicit child prostitution.

“My heart bleeds for Mtandire,” he says. “There is too much child prostitution, gender-based violence as well as alcohol and substance


Child rights advocate Amos Chibwana calls for collaboration among civil society, faith community, parents and government to address the vice.

“We all need to join hands in safeguarding children and raising awareness on the dangers of such malpractice to our children. Parents must be friends with their children, giving them time to open up and seek proper guidance,” he says.

Section three of the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act enacted in 2010 obligates parents to care for their children.

The law makes parents of children in prostitution liable to be arrested for negligence and failure to guide and care for them.

“Children who indulge in prostitution must be provided with psychosocial services, including counselling. If they don’t change, laws must be enforced,” says Chibwana.

The Malawi Sex Workers Alliance estimates that there are over 20 000 sex workers nationwide.

However, the count could be higher as sex workers mostly operate clandestinely for fear of being detained, vilified and ostracised in a country where sex work is seen as sinful, contrary to culture and illegal.

The Malawi 2063 long-term vision requires every child to get quality early childhood development and attain at least 12 years of formal education.

However, the population of out-of-school children is alarming.

The Malawi Demographic and Health Survey of 2015 shows that 27 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys quit school by their 15th birthday.

“Children are the future of this country,” says Satha. “We need to protect vulnerable minors like Alinafe and provide them with a brighter future.”

The post Poverty fans child prostitution first appeared on The Nation Online.

The post Poverty fans child prostitution appeared first on The Nation Online.