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by Thompson Reuters Foundation 09/06/19.

On a sunny morning in Bulawayo, 14-year-old Tapiwa is basking in the sunlight on a busy pavement. After running away from his abusive stepmother last year, Tapiwa turned to sex work to earn a living on the streets. He is one of the rising number of homeless children in a nation crippled by a cash crunch that has led to shortages of fuel and price hikes of basic necessities. Child rights groups said the sexual abuse of underage girls was widely discussed but to date little attention had been given to the boys caught up in the sex trade to survive. Gay sex is illegal in Zimbabwe, carrying a prison sentences of up to three years, but non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said reports of rising numbers of underage boys selling themselves on the streets were rife. Zimbabwean parliamentarian Siphiwe Ncube, a senator for Bulawayo Metropolitan province, said the authorities were aware of this trend, with abandoned beer halls converted into unofficial venues for sex work. Bulawayo City Council spokesman Nesisa Mpofu confirmed the authority had leased unused beer halls to the community for businesses and had no say on how tenants ran those places. Sikholiwe Ncube, programmes officer at the Bulawayo-based Thuthuka Street Children’s Home, said the nation’s economic crisis had forced more children onto the streets, leaving them vulnerable.