Human and child rights groups have blamed false prophets and traditional healers for perpetuating religious beliefs and myths resulting in increased child rapes.

More than 1 600 children were reported raped in the first half of the year countrywide with relatives being singled out as main culprits, police said last week. Police spokesperson Superintendent Blessmore Chishaka said the increase in reported rape cases in the country was a major concern.

Supt Chishaka said rape cases have increased by five percent as “we recorded a total of 2 440 in the first half of the year compared to 2 326 recorded during the same period last year.”

Supt Chishaka said 1 628 girls were reported raped between January and June this year compared to 1 553 reported raped during the same period last year adding that most of the cases involved girls below the age of 16 years.

Evince Mugumbati works for Women and Aids Support Network (WASN) says men who are HIV positive are told to have sex with a virgin so that he is cured of the disease.

“Usually it’s about someone who goes to a prophet to a N’anga and they are told to sleep with a young girl who is very innocent in order to get cured, that’s not true,” Mugumbati said.

Mugumbati says there is need for increased awareness among people so that they appreciate the disease.

“If you are infected, you are infected. You just have to take ARVs but in the community they are told to sleep with a very young child,” Mugumbati said.

Mugumbati says people have just turned away from God, adding that they have lost track of “our culture. We have lost track. We just need to probably find ourselves and turn to God and really pray.”

Caroline Maposhere,  a consultant on sexual reproductive health, says they are some churches are inviting them educate their members on sexual reproductive health.

“We are working with churches some of them by invitation due to problems related to sexual reproductive health,” Maposhere said.

Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Paul Chimedza, said most of the things that have increased child rapes are the misconceptions that if you rape a child who is a virgin then your HIV goes away. “So what it means as a ministry is that the education on what HIV is and how it should be treated has to go out there. The myths that are there have to be broken.”