Many South African girls, between the ages of nine and 15, have fallen pregnant over the last two years, according to the Department of Education. According to the South African law, this is considered statutory rape where a child younger than 16 has sex with a person older than his or her age.
Help for victims
Zita Mulambo, from the University of Pretoria’s Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Centre for Child Law, says, “A child under the age of 12 is too young to give permission to any sexual act. A sexual act with a child under 12 is automatically a crime. Whether the child gives consent to having sex, as long as she is engaging in sexual activities with an older person, that person can be arrested and charged with statutory rape.” In cases where a child didn’t give consent, she can talk to her parent.
If the parent is the perpetrator, then the child can talk to her teacher, a priest, social workers or a member of the community she can trust. Even in a situation where the child has given consent, a parent or someone close to the child should immediately report it to the police.
What the Department of Education says
Statutory rape often leads to teenage pregnancy which interrupts the learner’s education. In a statement, the Education Department said this is a concern to them and as a result a lot of work is being done in this area. The department says it has a national policy on the prevention and management of learner pregnancy.
What can be done?
Mandisa Muruge, a counselling social worker at the Family Life Centre in Johannesburg, says educating your child is crucial when it comes to this matter. “What parents can do is to teach their children about the dangers of engaging in sexual activities at a young age. Teach them about the methods used by perpetrators to gain the child’s trust before committing these crimes.
It’s important for parents to teach their children as much as they can about sex, including diseases that come with engaging in sexual activities,” Mandisa says. She adds that talking about sex should not be a taboo subject in any household. “If parents do not talk to their children about sex, children will get the wrong information outside their homes,” she says.