A recent report titled; “Adolescent and Youth Health Policy” released by the Department of Health focusing on adolescent and youth district data shows that every year, girls (some between 10 and 14 years old) are among the unacceptably high number of children who gave birth. Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga registered the highest numbers.
The report also shows that the number of children born to teenage mothers increased to 60% during the National State of Disaster under the COVID-19 national lockdown period.
Early pregnancy among teenagers presents a myriad of long-term socio-economic challenges such as health risks for teenage mothers and their babies, the perpetuation of the cycle of intergenerational poverty due to early school dropouts, the spread of HIV infections, emotional, psychological, and post-natal depression – amongst others.
As a build-up to this year’s Child Protection Week campaign, the Department of Social Development conducted teenage pregnancy round-table discussions with various stakeholders including, children, teenage mothers, parents and caregivers in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape and in Ulundi in Kwazulu-Natal.
The aim of the discussions was to assess the affected communities’ perspective on teenage pregnancy, educate and empower them to play an active role in preventing teenage pregnancy, identify and address contributory factors to teenage pregnancy and the obligation to report cases of statutory rape if they become aware or suspicious of sexual activities taking place involving minors.
Section 110 of the Children’s Act No. 38 of 2005 provides that suspected cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation – including statutory rape – be reported as soon as there is suspicion on reasonable grounds to ensure the safety and protection of the victimised child.
The duty to report suspected cases of statutory rape is reinforced by Section 54 of the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act (Act No. 32 of 2007).
In response to the high levels of teenage pregnancy, the Deputy Minister of Social Development – Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, will officially launch the Child Protection Week Campaign in Ingquza Hill municipality in Lusikisiki, which is one of the districts with the highest number of teenage pregnancies, under the theme; “Let us All Protect Children During COVID-19 and Beyond”.