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Sexual violence of minors by close relatives rampant: UNICEF

 

Limpho Sello

SEXUAL abuse of minors by people who are close to the victims is more rampant than often believed, the United Nations’ Children (UNICEF) has said.

UNICEF disclosed this in its International Women’s Day statement on Tuesday.

The statement was issued in the aftermath of last week’s conviction of a Social Development ministry senior staffer, Retšelisitsoe Thoahlane and his son, Tumelo Thoahlane, for sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl.

Thoahlane (53) and Tumelo (23) were last week each sentenced to 15 years imprisonment after being both convicted of repeatedly raping the minor.

The 11-year-old girl had been taken by the family into its care.

Mr Thoahlane is the director of disability in the Social Development ministry. His was a highly influential position in which he was expected to take the lead in protecting the disadvantaged and vulnerable in society, especially the disabled and minors.

But as Maseru magistrate ‘Manapo Motebele found last week, Mr Thoahlane abused his position. He took advantage of the minor’s vulnerability to repeatedly rape her over an unspecified period.

The minor was taken into the Thoahlanes’ custody after it was discovered that her biological father had been raping her since she was nine. It is not clear what punishment, if any, was meted out to the minor’s father for turning her into a sex slave after the death of her mother.

But it appears the minor only jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire after the “good samaritan” Mr Thoahlane turned into a ravenous wolf and repeatedly subjected her to a horrifying rape ordeal.

As if that was not horrifying enough, the minor’s attempts to seek help from Mr Thoahlane’s son, Tumelo, only landed her in more suffering. He also took advantage of her vulnerability to repeatedly rape her as well.

In addition to the trauma, the minor has been found to be suffering from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) after her rape ordeal.

The victim is now receiving psychological help from the Lesotho Child Counselling Unit.

And in its International Women’s Day statement, UNICEF expressed fears similar sexual violence cases were more rampant than believed. The UN agency said sexual violence remained under reported.

“UNICEF will continue to support where required,” the statement reads.

“This is a shocking case of having someone entrusted with providing support to children being found guilty of abusing a girl in his care. We fear that this type of sexual violence perpetrated by someone close to a child is more widespread than often believed.

“Sexual violence remains highly under reported, particularly among those living with disabilities.

“Today on International Women’s Day, we stand by partners and colleagues working to end violence against women, girls and children. We remain committed to working with the government, partners and civil society to strengthen the capacity of social workers, outreach community workers and law enforcement officers to support survivors of sexual violence,” the statement reads.

 

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