CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS CONCERNED ABOUT EFFECTS OF ARTICLE ON PROVISION OF CONDOMS TO CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 12
On 10 May 2015 the Sunday Times carried a front page article alleging that the Department of Basic Education plans to provide condoms to children younger than 12 years old. The article was also carried on the front page of Beeld on 11 May 2015. Civil society organisations (Centre for Child Law, RAPCAN, Community Law Centre Parliamentary Programme, Women's Legal Centre and Molo Songololo) are deeply concerned that the articles misrepresented the Department's new draft policy on HIV, STIs and TB.
The articles state that, in addition to making condoms available to children from grade 7 to 12, children in grades 4 to 6 (who would be aged 9 to 12) will also be given condoms where required. However, nowhere in the draft policy does it state that children aged 9 to 12 will be provided with condoms.
The policy under scrutiny in the report refers to schooling phases not ages; it provides that counselling on sexual and reproductive health issues will be provided to senior and FET phase learners - as well as intermediate learners, where required. This includes the provision of condoms and HIV counselling and testing and other assistance. Properly read with other relevant legislation this means that children in grades 4 to 6 would 'be required' to receive condoms if they are older than 12.
This does however point to a need for the policy to be drafted in a manner that provides better clarity. We believe that the policy should state more explicitly that the provisions of section 134 of the Children's Act 38 of 2005 applies. The section deals with the provision of condoms, contraceptives and health care services to children 12 and above.
We are also concerned that the perception has been created that teenage pregnancies are spiralling out of control. Research by the Southern African Labour Development Research Unit as well as figures from the 2011 report on the Annual Survey of Ordinary Schools indicate that there has been a significant decrease in teenage prenancies.
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