Mother City’s street children under the spotlight

Mother City’s street children under the spotlight

August 7, 2006
By Tonight Reporter
Tuesday is investigative television night when it comes to SABC3 and e.tv.

While the latter is doing updates on some of 3rd Degree’s (8pm) more controversial topics, SABC3’s Special Assignment, at 9.30pm, is focusing on homeless boys, living on the streets of Cape Town, who have become the prey of paedophiles.

Next week a British priest goes on trial in Cape Town on charges of indecent assault. His alleged victim is a 10-year-old boy – an orphan who had been placed in one of the city’s shelters for homeless children.

This is not an isolated case.

Also in August, a Sea Point property tycoon will appear in court charged with indecently assaulting boys. The list is growing.

According to Human Rights Watch, the term "street children" refers to "children for whom the street, more than their family, has become their real home".

The horrifying fact is that on the streets of our cities, homeless boys are regularly sexually abused by a growing number of paedophiles. The street kids call these men "bunnies" – a term describing the mostly middle-aged white men who pay them to have sex.

According to activists, street children are collected at night at designated pick-up spots, yet the public remains largely unaware of what is taking place.

Many NGOs established to provide care and shelter for the city’s street children turn a blind eye and, according to some, the police say they have "bigger fish to fry" than sexual predators preying on boys living on the margins of society

.

Compounding the problem is the fact that SA’s Sexual Offences Bill does not yet make provision for male rape. Even though the age of consent remains 19, the law provides inadequate protection for underage, male victims of sexual assault. This means that even if convicted, paedophiles often receive little more than a slap on the wrist for sexual crimes against boys.

The children find it difficult to refuse the "bunnies" because the money they are offered provides them with food, clothing or drugs.

Although many feel ashamed, they have learned to deal with the abuse as another means of survival. Yet the long-term psychological damage is incalculable.

On e.tv, 3rd Degree revisits four controversial cases. First up, it’s been six months since the Gauteng MEC for Education was to look into the dismissal of an HIV-positive teacher, yet nothing’s been done.

Then, after the double rape and murder of two girls in Knysna, a suspect is on trial and the victim of a muti-related attack, who should be under police protection in hospital, was released and has disappeared.

And finally, since 3rd Degree’s show aired about the Barberton place of safety, Sophie Jardin has been inundated with offers of help and the Mpumalanga department of social welfare hasn’t removed more children, instead it is now trying to help the home with resources and aid.

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