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Teenagers under the age of 16 caught kissing, touching or rubbing up against each other can be criminally charged.
The new Sexual Offences Act, signed into law by President Thabo Mbeki on Thursday, has criminalised kissing, or any light sexual behaviour among people under the age of 16 - even if it is consensual.
Also illegal under the new act is any sexual activity, including oral sex, between consenting teens aged 15 and younger.
The new act, which has made sweeping changes to the definition of rape, has, however, been met with mixed reviews by advocacy groups who hail certain aspects but condemn others.
Samantha Waterhouse, advocacy manager of Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, said on Sunday that the laws covering consenting sexual behaviour, especially the aspects of non-penetrative sex among teenagers under the age of 16, were "ridiculous".
"It is irrational. It does not help our cause at all because all it does is that it makes criminals of a wide range of teenagers.
"I can understand where the government is coming from in terms of morality, but criminalising kissing, and even touching, is illogical. What we should have are programmes aimed at sexual education, like what is and what is not appropriate," Waterhouse said.
Although the NGOs have hailed portions of the act - such as the new definition of rape, which includes rape of males - they say the legislation has failed to deal meaningfully with the key challenges in prosecuting cases of sexual violence against children.
Joan van Niekerk, national co-ordinator of Childline, said the act failed children and adolescents in court as it required them, as before, to testify in the presence of defendants.
The act - passed without any public hearings - was not the bill recommended by the South African Law Reform Commission, Van Niekerk said.
"All the provisions that protect child witnesses were removed.
"Also, what we are bitterly disappointed by is that the cautionary law attached to child witnesses, which basically says that judges should take a cautious approach to a child's testimony as it may not be reliable, is still in the act," Van Niekerk said.
"There is no evidence that suggests that the testimony given by a child is not reliable. Research has shown that a child's testimony is even more reliable than an adult's."
Waterhouse said one aspect that had let down advocacy groups was the language in the act.
It was confusing and might lead to offenders walking free on technicalities.
"The drafting of the offences is complicated and confusing," Waterhouse said.
"Police have not been trained on the implications of the new legislation on statement-taking in these cases."
The act's definition of rape has been widely praised.
It includes penetration of the mouth, anus and genital organs of one person with the genital organs or another body part of another person, or an object, or part of the body of an animal.
This means men and boys may now file complaints of rape with the police.
Under the old act, rape was defined only as vaginal penetration and excluded anal and oral penetration. Perpetrators accused of anal or oral penetration were charged with indecent assault, seen as a lesser offence than rape.
"We welcome the provisions in this long-awaited act that recognise the seriousness of oral and anal penetration and the seriousness of sexual violation of boys and men," said Waterhouse.
The act also introduces a range of crimes that relate specifically to the sexual exploitation of children and people with mental disability.
These include sexual grooming, sexual exploitation and the use of children or people with mental disabilities in pornography, or pornography being displayed to children.