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Ugly encounters of teenagers’ sexual exploitation

By Mary Agidi

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Early exposure to sexual intercourse among the Adolescents and Young Persons(AYPs), leading to teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STDs), and killing for  ritual purposes by quick money-making individuals, is at the high side in our current society.

Investigation by The Hope revealed that Young adolescent girls, in their fifteen to nineteen years of age, are being exploited sexually through luxurious items like expensive phones, clothing, night clubbing ,etc. This poses a greater danger for their future, as they are still assumed to be undergoing maturation stage, which is a delicate stage in human growth. This is the period they develop high emotional feelings that, if not well-guided, result in excessive display of youthful exuberance.

There are reported cases and evidence of young girls and boys engaging in transactional sex(sexual relationship motivated by financial or material gain, trans-generational sexual relationship(sugar daddy and sugar mummy), incest, and exploitation by the so-called deliverance clerics.

A study also revealed that 1 in 4 girls (25%) are sexually abused by the age of 18. One in 6 boys (17%) are sexually abused by the age of 18. Other studies have also documented female preponderance.

 Increased incidences of sexual exploitation of minor in southwest

There were reported cases of violence against women and girls in the Niger Delta with a focus on sexual violence against children in Ondo State. According to data Linking Partners for Niger-Delta Development, more than 30 incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation were reported in Ondo State between January 2018 and June 2021. Recent data shows an increase in reported incidents of child sexual abuse in the State. In January 2021, for example, a 17-year old girl was reportedly raped and impregnated by her 36-year old father in Ore community, Odigbo LGA.

In February, a 10-year old girl was reportedly raped to death by a 27-year-old man at a village in Igbotako community, Okitipupa LGA. In May, a 9-year-old-girl was reportedly defiled by a 35-year- old man in Uso community, Owo LGA. In August, a 13-year- old girl was allegedly abducted and gang raped by two men in Ikare-Akoko community, Akoko North-East LGA. More recently, on August 16, 2021, a 4-year-old girl was reportedly sexually abused by a 29-year old man in Akure, Akure South LGA. The minor was allegedly molested by the suspect who was a neighbour to her parents.

In 2022, there was a case of a 54-year-old secondary school teacher in Ose Local Government area of Ondo State who was arrested for impregnating a 15-year-old SS1 girl. He was alleged to have forcefully taken the girl to a quack who performed an unsafe abortion on her, which later boomeranged as the girl almost lost her life due to complications.

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Also, in 2021, a girl, 19 years old exposed the atrocity of her biological father, who she claimed had been sexually harassing her since she was 8 years old. She decided to  escape from her family, having realised that her mother was unconcerned, despite trying to give her hints.

Conspiracy of silence and contributing factors

 These are ways in which teenagers are being exploited sexually, and are not confident to speak up due to lack of right sexual information and orientations.

They are easily deceived due to that stage of maturation, which comes with high emotional feelings and for being malleable.

Are they at fault for exhibiting this feeling? No. Because they have no power over their maturation  stage and emotion. What they need is timely access to sexual rights and reproductive health information’s.

 Meanwhile, the increasing rates of sexually transmitted diseases, like HIV  among the youths,  unsafe abortions, amongst others, have been attributed to this lack of access to adequate and essential information’s about Sexual and Reproductive Health, for Adolescents and Young People (AYPs), in developing countries like Nigeria.

Report says,  “A staggering 4.3 billion people lack essential SRHR services, with over 200 million women in developing countries lacking access to modern contraception.”

To provide the AYPs with access to essential sexual and reproductive health information, there’s a need for concerted efforts and commitment from individuals and stakeholders (Government, media, CSOs, religious leaders, parents/guardians, traditional rulers and school authorities), to secure our future, as it was said that, “Healthy Youth is Healthy Future”.

What Experts say

Speaking on the need for teenagers to be provided with adequate information about their sexual health and rights , the Executive Director of Hacey Health Initiative, Mrs. Rhoda Robinson underscored the need to ensure that the disadvantaged groups in Nigeria, AYPs in particular, benefit health and economic empowerment rights.

She emphasised the need for collaboration with stakeholders to build and sustain campaigns that are geared towards delivering the sexual health services to AYPs.

“Sexual and Reproductive Health issues pose a significant challenge for vulnerable Adolescents and Young People (AYPs) in developing countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Two-thirds of illnesses among women of Reproductive age in this region are attributed to Sexual health rights  problems, “she noted.

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Analysing the roles of stakeholders to protect our girls from sexual exploitation, she called on governments to provide policy support and guidance for SRHR initiatives, implement and enforce laws and regulations related to SRHR and collaborate with other stakeholders to address SRHR challenges, effectively.

She advised civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations to implement SRHR programmes and initiatives at the grassroots level by providing direct services such as counselling, education, and healthcare related to SRHR.

“Furthermore, the Community and Religious leaders are to act as advocates and influencers within their communities, promoting SRHR awareness and acceptance, provide moral and ethical guidance on SRHR issues”, says the Hacey Health CEO.

Also speaking, the Executive Director of Kids and Teens Resource Centre, Mr. Martin-Mary Falana decried the rate at which  these adolescents were trapped in transactional sex work, forced to exchange their bodies for basic needs.

He blamed this on lack of access to sexual information, poverty, and parents’ busy schedule coupled with their  failure to provide their teenage children with right sexual education.

His words: “Absence of youth-friendly health care and support services make girls feel afraid or ashamed to seek help in cases of sexual exploitation or abuse in government facilities.

“I always blame the government and parents for not putting systems in place to ensure that children and young people are provided with basic facts on sexuality education before they become addicted. Sex education is being misunderstood by parents and government,  including our religious leaders. Sex education is not sexual Intercourse education.

“The totality of all you need to know from birth till death, being a male or being a female is called sex education. What we don’t have, we can’t give. Parents need to be trained on modern-day parenting.

“As a way forward, parents need to maintain open and honest dialogue with our teenagers about sex, relationships, and boundaries, set clear rules and consequences while explaining the reasoning behind them.

“They need to monitor and supervise – keep an eye on our teenagers’ activities, online behaviour, and relationships. There is a need to provide emotional support and validation to help our teenagers develop self-esteem and confidence.

“Parents also need to lead by examples. A drunk dad can not stop his son or daughter from being drunk. Our teenagers learn from what they see. Parents need to support their teenagers in forming healthy relationships with friends and romantic partners, “he concluded.

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In his own contribution, the Executive Director of The Acalypha Child Care Initiative, Mr. Kehinde Oyeleye affirmed  that sexual health information would help girls to be well informed about their sexuality and would be difficult for her to fall prey for sexual predators.

His words: ” Sexual health information goes a long way in reducing the naivety among the girl children. Youthful exuberance has led many teenage girls to regret, termination of ambition and even death as the case may be due to unwanted pregnancy or STDs.

“Wanting to belong to a social group and having a taste of what others have tasted when it is not the right time has led many young girls to troubles and regret. However, with sexual health information,  youthful exuberance can be controlled and checkmated. “

He further averred that sexual health information would improve and promote the girl-mother relationship when mothers are involved in giving their daughters sexual orientation.

“It is a common and established fact that many see it as the responsibility of mothers especially to educate the girl child as regards sex and her sexuality. The process of sex education between the girl child and her mother creates some sort of bonding and familiarity between them; it improves their relationship and allows the girl child to be free to discuss anything with the mother especially as it regards her sexuality.

“Sexual health information should be highly promoted and encouraged in homes, schools, and even religious gatherings. The girl child is at most risk to sexual assault and molestation by the opposite gender and as such should be educated about sex and her sexuality because it will go a long way in helping to curtail sexual vices in the society”, says Oyeleye.

In conclusion, the need to protect our teenagers from sexual exploitation to secure their futures from regret is a responsibility for all.

According to a Yoruba adage which says, “Oju kan lobi omo, igba oju lonwo,” that is, a child is birthed by one parent, but nurtured by hundreds of individuals. The girl in that office may lack attention at home, individual can be determined to guide a girl, gradually, by sharing right information’s that would help them foresee a better future than what they are being deceived to have.

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