By Jane Sithole, MPL, Spokesperson on Women, Children and People with Disabilities:
With the recent signing into law of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill, it has become vital for parents and caregivers to take charge of educating young people about sex.
The law was amended so that consensual sex between two children aged between 12 and 16 years would not be regarded as a criminal offense.
Teenage pregnancy in Mpumalanga is already a growing concern as the province recorded one of the highest school pregnancy rates in the country for the 2014 academic year. 130 primary school learners fell pregnant, while 3 196 teenagers fell pregnant in high school.
The DA believes that with this amendment, teenage pregnancies are likely to increase and it is therefore vital for parents to educate their children from an early age on all matters relating to sex.
While many schools do include sexual education in their curriculums, the duty to educate our children rests on parents now more than ever, they should be teaching their children about the risks involved with drugs, alcohol and sexual choices.
Pregnant girls often drop out of school to care for their babies but sadly, not all of them return to complete their studies.
Coupled with teenage pregnancies, the youth of Mpumalanga face a bleak future, according to a recent report by Stats SA, the current unemployment rate among youths aged 15-34 is sitting at 38.8%.
The DA strongly believes that social behaviour, recreational facilities in our communities and functioning sports programmes in schools are some of the issues that should seriously be addressed in order to assist our teens and school children.
If parents champion the drive to educate their children about sex in an open and frank manner, young people will be empowered to make better choices therefore, giving them hope for the future.
The DA believes that we need to address the societal circumstances within which many teenagers find themselves in, namely:
- The breakdown of family structures, family values and moral norms;
- The breakdown of community values and the increased exposure to social ills such as drug and other substance abuse;
- The existence of abusive relationships, inter-generational relationships and multiple partners;
- Inadequate sex education before the age of 14;
- Severe lack of extramural activities such as sport and cultural activities that provide a safe haven for children to develop mentally, socially and emotionally; and
- Poverty and the lack of employment opportunities and insufficient motivation to advance one’s life and career.
With this recent Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill, parents need to be more vigilant as we cannot allow teenage mothers to become part of a lost generation.