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Parents better take notice of Justice Sisi Khampepe’s judgment this week on adolescents having sex, writes Loyiso Sidimba.
Johannesburg - Parents better take notice of Justice Sisi Khampepe’s judgment this week on adolescents having sex. Khampepe said: “I am highly doubtful that the introduction of criminal prohibitions could ever be shown to be a constitutionally sound means of preventing the occurrence of such risks as teenage pregnancy.”
The judge effectively asked the country and parents not to look to the criminal justice system for answers to the challenge of children under 16 having consensual sex with each other.
Sex has become a currency of the 21st century and parents must accept this. It’s on all media – television, radio and billboards – and parents need to take note.
Khampepe declared the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 inconsistent with the constitution and invalid to the extent that it imposes criminal liability on children between the ages of 12 and 16 for having consensual sex with other children in that age group.
The case was brought by the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children and Cape Town-based Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.
The two organisations argued that the impugned provisions enacted to protect children in terms of the act harmed the very children they were intended to safeguard.
The organisations said the act had harmful effects including that it exposed minors to the harshness of the criminal justice system and the “chilling effect of such exposure on the development of a proper understanding of, and healthy attitudes to, sexual behaviour”.
The overburdened criminal justice system will not be able to handle a glut of such cases.
Instead, parents need to talk to their children about sex and the risks of early sexual encounters.
Elsewhere in this newspaper, we report that the Basic Education Department’s annual school survey revealed that in 2010, 36 702 pupils were pregnant and that children as young as nine were having sex.
Besides pregnancy, the greater risk remains sexually transmitted infections.
According to Khampepe, comprehensive sex education is more effective than abstinence only or no sex education in reducing risky sexual behaviour by young people including delays in sexual debut and reductions in the number of sexual partners.
But boys and men older than 16, said to be among the major reasons young women contract HIV/Aids, should not start celebrating. Although the Constitutional Court has placed a moratorium on all investigations, arrests, prosecutions, and criminal and ancillary proceedings against children under 16, pending Parliament’s correction of the act, it does not extend to older people having sex with children under 16.
Although there has been a significant decline in HIV prevalence in youth aged 15-24 years (from 10.3% in 2005 to 8.7% in 2008 and 7.3% last year) the prevalence among young women 15-19 years old was around 12.7% in 2011, according to the Human Sciences Research Council and the national antenatal sentinel HIV and syphilis prevalence survey.
Faced with these alarming facts, parents have no choice but to talk openly about sex to their children.
Khampepe is saying families must tackle this societal issue.
* Moshoeshoe Monare is on leave. His column returns on October 20.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.