Girls have always been guarded by most groups of society, especially mothers.
However, today, some say there is only so much one can do as some young girls go looking for men to sleep with, for incentives or not.
Many beer joints have girls as young as 12, working as sex workers.
Streets sprawl with young girls at night, clubbing and partying, including girls that run away from homes and those that get abducted.
Last week, Zomba Magis t r a t e ’ s Cou r t sentenced 39-year-old Catholic priest, Father Numeri Mweta to 17 years imprisonment for abduction, defilement and procuration of a 15-year-old girl.
In his case, he went with the girl to several cities, from the time she was 13, renting rooms for her.
In all this, of parents, neighbours and a society that didn’t question, is a moral inquiry that most should undertake.
The question whether girls should fear men, stay away from boys in an array of contending traditions and cultures is a phenomena new and old.
There is no question that when one is underage, there is no consent.
S e n i o r C h i e f Kachindamoto of Dedza, in condemning the acts, says some girls don’t sleep with men from love, but fear.
She says parents have a role to play and condemns cases where parents push their children towards marriages for incentives.
Pushing a girl child to find relish, encouraging her to get into relationships to find money, these she denounces.
She says these men are older and should have self-respect, and should know she is a child and that there is no difference with the child he has at home.
“What gives them the right to destroy another
man’s child? How does an old man take courage to strip in front of a child?”she wonders.
The girls, she says, agree in ignorance, but when alone, think how an old man can do such a thing, despite having gotten the money.
In the past, when a girl comes of age, elders— aunts and grandmothers— would take on the role of advising the girls, in particular telling them the effects of sleeping with men or boys.
Kachindamoto observes that such good traditions need to be carried on to help to preserve the lives of young girls.
She says in her area, with the angaliba and anankungwi- (initiators), they gather
girls of particular ages and same with boys to advise them about their bodies and stay away from early sexual involvement.
Chief Maganga of Salima holds the view that girls are becoming promiscuous irrespective of dangers they know and see.
He says it is not a parent’s wish to have wayward children and that girls at times dress respectfully in the presence of parents only to take those clothes off a few metres from home.
“We are living in a time when we have freedoms and rights, and young girls take these too far. Traditions such as sending a child to aunts and other adults for advice must return,” he says.
Patuma Imran, 28, a mother of two from Chiradzulu says the advice elders gave her when she started her menstruation has been a guide that she will now pass on to her children.
She says they explained to her about the dangers of sleeping with boys and men.
Chancellor College soc i o l o g i s t Charles Chilimampunga says in our culture, elderly women are respected for their wisdom and love.
He observes that in the past, adolescent girls from neighbouring households were sleeping in one house under supervision, protection and guidance of an elderly woman.
The sociologist says this practice can be used to strengthen the bond among girls to support and protect each other from unwanted sexual advances of older men.
He augments; cultural s t r u c t u r e s s u c h a s anankungwi and angaliba are already in place, only that they need the right information and support to initiate the girls in a positive manner.
He perceives that zinkhoswe (engagement ceremonies), which are attended by young women and adolescent girls, are also a good platform for sending advice. n