Saturday, October 24, 2009

Child Socerers

I've been learning how girls become street children and prostitutes in Bukavu. As with everything else here in Congo, the most oft cited reason is poverty. But there is a cultural wrinkle you might find interesting.
When something inexplicable and bad happens in poor families, which constitute most of Congo, a child can become the scapegoat and take the blame for the problem. The child is called a sorcerer by a family member or neighbors and driven from the home to forestall more bad luck striking the family.

This can happen when a parent dies, or when several family deaths occur simultaneously, or when a family falls on hard times and is ashamed of their poverty.

And these child "socerers" are most always girls. This is so, it is explained, because boys tend to wander while girls stay at home and are not valued as highly as boys . . . so if one less child seems the answer to family problems, it will be the girl who is sent out to roam the streets.

This can also happen when a parent remarries and the new step parent is jealous of the child, or if a child is ill and needs expensive medical help the family cannot afford.

In these cases, an itinerant pastor is brought in to collaborate witchcraft, always for a fee. These fees keep nefarious pastors in business, and it is a thriving business. Some girls are sentenced to life on the streets for as little as a cell phone.

Girls as young as 8 years are banished from their homes, turning to begging first, then to prostitution as a way to survive.

Look to my next blog to learn what is being done to help these girls.

With love and gratitude,

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