Our CEO was invited to speak on teenage pregnancy

Our CEO was invited to speak on teenage pregnancy

On March 13th, 2022, our CEO was invited to speak on "teenage pregnancy" by SAUMA HD radio, which was hosted by DJ V. Neck, Ms. Kay, and Nthabi.
Our CEO was invited to speak on teenage pregnancy

When asked to comment on the 2020/2021 stats that have been circulating in the mainstream media, our CEO stated that: "Those numbers you just quoted are Gauteng numbers." The national numbers range from 4454 in 2021 to 2022 of 10–14-year-olds who were reported to have given birth in this period. Because she wanted to clarify the difference between a child and a teenager and the age of consent, she noted that we needed to differentiate between a child and a teenager. Just out of common-sense teenage years, we start counting at 13 years, but anyone below 13 is a child. So, we need to differentiate between child pregnancy and teen pregnancy. Furthermore, if you follow our SA law, you will find the age of consent in this country is 16 years. If any person who is under 16 engages in sexual activity, that would be considered statutory rape. However, to clarify, if a 14- or 15-year-old has sex with a peer, they won’t be charged. But any person who is older and has been with a person of non-consenting age will be considered to have committed a crime.

V-neck DJ asked Who is impregnating these girls? Their peers or adult men?

A: Probably not by their peers. We don’t have a clear picture because what we lack is proper data collection. But what we can deduce from the numbers is that we know in this country, young women are being impregnated by people who are older than them and aren’t consenting. The numbers clearly tell us that they are forced to engage in these sexual activities. Let’s look at the other numbers we know of. We know that, in terms of the statistics that have been reported by our Minister of Police, where we saw rape cases going up, the reports are mainly given by those who are under the age of 15, which is the age where most sexual violence is reported.

To clarify that distinction, our CEO clarified the age of consent: if a person has sex with someone under the age of 16, it is statutory rape. She went on to further highlight that the pregnancies are through sexual violence. The problem is that we blame young women for being sexually violated but do not look at better ways to protect them. If 15–19 years is where we are reporting most sexual violence and they fall pregnant and give birth, they probably fell pregnant when they were 14 years old. That tells you that the likelihood that these girls fall pregnant due to rape is high.

DJ.V-neck also asked our CEO to give insights on the perception that society has about teen pregnancy.

A: Young girls are always stigmatised and problematised. If they are raped, we blame them for what they were doing and what they were wearing. Why were they dressed the way they were dressed? They are pregnant. We blame them. So, the blame is always put on young girls. We put the burden on them. We don’t look at the whole societal set up in terms of how we could better protect these young girls from falling pregnant. Our CEO also spoke on the 2020 and 2021 statistics where 937 girls were reported to have given birth. She noted that during that time, we were on hard lockdown and the number of pregnant girls and those who gave birth went up because young girls were locked in homes with perpetrators. Hence the spike in numbers. She also included that these violations are happening in domestic settings or to someone they know, i.e., brothers, neighbours, etc., and these numbers are corroborated by the Minister of Police.

Ms. Kay wanted to find out What barriers are there to opening a statutory rape case?

A: We have developed a culture of silence in this country because it happens domestically. We start by saying it’s a secret. We are only looking at one part of the numbers, so most cases go unreported. That is why I am saying we don’t have a full picture, not even the numbers that managed to be collected at clinics when these girls were giving birth. They are only Looking at one part of the numbers, the ones that found out they were pregnant went to a back street abortion, and those who gave birth at home are not looked at. That is why she said the numbers are one-sided. The culture of accountability by service providers is not there, she added. There is a need to always advocate and push that whenever a ten-year-old goes to a clinic pregnant, a case must be opened and there must be a follow-up. Slowly, we are starting to see some progress. At Soul City Institute, we started making noise and that forced the department of education to act, saying once the learner is pregnant at school, they will follow up the matter, she explained. The department of education launched a policy to manage that process. The more noise we make and sort of create awareness and encourage parents to report if their 12-year-old is pregnant, the better, she concluded.

Ms. Kay further asked Who is responsible for reporting the case?

A: The duty to report is placed on everyone (parents, healthcare providers, teachers, etc.). If they fail, they are also at fault and can be charged. However, the primary responsibility lies with the parents. But because most parents, even though we don’t have stats to back up my statement, but through anecdotal reports from the girls we work with, some are afraid to report because they will be told that they were seducing the perpetrator, or that they wanted this, or that they were negligent. The other component is that in clinics where they should get contraceptives and abortion services, you still have instances where they are not functioning the way they should. Facilities need to align with needs and ensure that services are always available.

Is poverty a major contributor to teen pregnancy?

A: We have systematic issues such as poverty and patriarchy where men feel entitled to women’s bodies. There are a lot of systematic issues we need to address, but those are not the only reasons why pregnancy happens. We should not reduce teen pregnancies to just being because of poverty.

She noted that rape is an issue in this country, and we need to address it. We have phenomena such as the Blessers, who prey on young women. She added that the main issue for her is the patriarchal norms we have included in our society. We don’t really question the issue of rape. Rape is another factor, which is rape. We have accepted it as a given.

Are there any prevention programs like #SRHR and aftercare programs for young mothers?

A: We have many programmes. We have Comprehensive Sexual Education in school, which teaches young people about their development, puberty, body changes, and how to care for themselves. They build skills around communication, so they can communicate well about what is happening to them. We also have clinic programmes and general life skills programmes where young people should be able to access all healthcare services. We have general life skills programmes run by Soul City, LoveLife, and Inside My Purse. When you operate within a broken system that is already broken, when you have the above-mentioned program, you are not able to address the issue in totality. When we work with the Rise girls, we give them skills to empower them. We are still not removing the environment that disempowers them. They know their rights and are fully empowered, but when they access the justice system, they are secondarily victimised and live in a home where they are violated. When they report it, they are not believed in the home. Overall, we need to fix this broken system.

The conversation then turned to why they were not opting for an abortion. The response was, "We stigmatise abortion. We have nurses who opt not to give abortions because of their belief. " Once you turn back a teenager, once they get the courage to have an abortion, they will never come back.

To end the conversation, she gave words of advice to Parents and Guardians 

In closing, have an open communication line between you and your child, and develop a relationship of trust. Let them talk to you about anything. Learn to communicate through them because shouting is not communication. Build trust with your kids. Make sure you speak about #SRHR and the options that are available. It’s not taboo to talk about sex. You are not giving them a license to have sex. Have an age-appropriate conversation about sex. 

Listen to the conversation:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjHoYsH3A4M&t=576s

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