By Staff Reporters

The Soul City Institute disclosed that it is not shocked by the high number of young girls in Gauteng who gave birth between April 2020 and March 2021. They reckoned that although Covid-19 may perhaps have placed the issue under the spotlight, this problem has been around for a long time.

This opinion was expressed after a legislature question on teenage pregnancy, by DA’s Refiloe Nt’sekhe brought South Africa face-to-face with the trauma of children’s sexuality and child abuse.

Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi told Gauteng lawmakers in reply that her department has recorded more than 23,000 teenage pregnancies between April 2020 and March 2021. Of these, 934 were girls between the ages of 10 and 14. Another 2,976 girls between the ages of 10 and 19 terminated the pregnancies.

“July saw the most births from girls between the ages of 15 and 19 (1,984 deliveries), while August had the highest number of deliveries (155) for girls between the ages of 10 and 14,” said Mokgethi.She said they didn’t know how many statutory rape cases were opened.

The DA found these numbers to be “incredibly troubling considering that these are young girls (who) still have bright futures ahead of them.”

They demanded intensified campaigns against teenage pregnancy in schools for 365 days by Gauteng’s Social Development, Education and Health departments.

Phinah Kodisang, the Chief Executive of Soul City Institute, told the SABC that “this is a reflection of how the country continues to fail children”.

“For us as Soul City Institute, it’s not a shock. We know this has been an ongoing problem. The numbers have been escalating probably because of Covid-19. But this problem has been a standing problem. And because we do not call it what it is, it’s statutory rape when a 10- or a 14-year-old is having sex. Because the age of consent in South Africa is 16 years.”

The Congress of Traditional Leaders (Contralesa) spokesperson Zolani Mkhiva said the campaigns might not help much.

“Our biggest problem is that we have been deculturalised as a people. We have lost our way of life. We have deviated so far from our roots and culture that we have totally forgotten ourselves.”
He says policies such as the Child Support Grant were not introduced with the relevant level of understanding for their use and proper social mechanism to ensure proper use.

“Without understanding, these policies have grossly eroded the African family structure,” he said.
He also expressed concern that the matter was seen as children’s fault.

“It is unfortunate that children are victimised in a manner this matter is raised. We have completely abdicated our responsibility to raise our children. Our liberal education system, mass media and social media content make sex ‘cool’ and acceptable to children,” he charged.”

Echoing almost similar sentiments on culture and tradition is National Freedom Party Parliamentarian and Basic Education Portfolio Committee Member Christopher Howard Mzwakhe Sibisi, who says “ukuhlolwa kwezintombi” is the only plausible solution to the issues around sex education and curbing teenage pregnancy.

“The problem is that ukuhlolwa kwezintombi is reduced to only checking of virginity. This traditional way of life offers a lot more than that to young people. Young girls are taught how to become astute women, their culture as a people; it also gives them pride about their own roots, their heritage and history.”

Sexually abused children medical NGO the Teddy Bear Clinic agrees that we need education campaigns as traditional ways of raising children. It lamented South Africa’s glaring economic inequalities.

Clinical Services director Shaheda Omar said while these statistics were alarming, with the correct approach the challenges were not insurmountable.

“We need more stakeholders, CBOs’ and faith-based organisation. We also need to go back to our traditional ways. In my time it was the community and extended families that played a role in raising a child. We need to have the spirit of Ubuntu. This needs to be extended to the workplace environment where employers must take time to education parents about their role,” she said.

“Many of these children come from marginalised communities and poorer communities, where schools are without adequate resources. In such settings reproductive education with age-appropriate knowledge is not a priority.

“The other challenge is parenting under such conditions. Children are not born with manuals, as parents we may not know how to speak to children about sex. This is especially the case in marginalised communities where there are more pressing and urgent needs. People here don’t really have time for issues such as self-actualisation,” she said.

Omar said the country needs to look into better resourcing of schools and increased community education about the difficult subject of sex.

She said healthcare practitioners needed to be more equipped to deal with children. Children are afraid to speak about these issues so our health system needs to be more responsive and receptive and not judgmental.

“We strongly believe that if we put children protective measures in place, in all sectors of our society as we must, we shouldn’t be worried about these numbers escalating,” she said.

South African Men’s Forum said in a patriarchal society like ours, the success of sex education and gender equality was dependent on our ability to make men gender activists.

“The key in ending violence against women must be set around perception changes, we must challenge traditional masculinities and engage men as gender activists. We should use advocacy campaigns, particularly through the identification of the media as a key element in ‘reprogramming’ men and masculinity, given the increasingly cross-cultural emphasis placed on media imagery,” said Gauteng head Bongani Ngomane.

He said SA Men’s Forum believed in “intensified awareness-raising campaigns that focus on ‘best gender practice’ among boys and men in schools, sports and other cultural activists and faith-based organisations.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *