Cape Town - The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue of teenage pregnancy.
Briefing the basic education portfolio committee on Tuesday, deputy director-general Granville Whittle said the country saw a 37% spike in gender-based violence (GBV) complaints in the first week of total lockdown.
The lockdown, he said, has exposed the many inequities that affect adolescent girls in particular and has increased their vulnerability.
Granville said it that often children are either victims of, or witness domestic violence. This results in harmful effects on their physical health, mental development and well-being.
The committee heard that rape, child abuse and GBV are “highly prevalent” and contributing to the issue of teenage pregnancy.
Key findings on the effects of the pandemic were that school closures and containment measures resulted in loss of education and social protections, which saw increases in teen pregnancy, sexual exploitation and sexual violence.
According to Granville, there are approximately 1 300 new cases of HIV in adolescent girls and young women, with 46% of the cases of children being sexual abuse complaints.
“The HIV prevalence among young women is nearly four times greater than that of young men.”
Last month, in response to questions, Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi revealed that girls as young as 10 years are among the 23 226 girls who fell pregnant in Gauteng between April 2020 and March 2021.
A total of 934 babies were delivered by girls between the ages of 10 and 14, while over 19 000 were delivered by those between the ages of 15 and 19.
Deputy Minister of Education Reginah Mhaule said the issue of teenage pregnancy was “an emotional and societal matter”.