‘It’s a recipe for dis­as­ter’

Zuma’s ‘sep­a­rat­ing ba­bies from young moms’ com­ment ‘lu­di­crous, un­in­formed’

Cape Argus - - NEWS - Zodidi Dano STAFF RE­PORTER zodidi.dano@inl.co.za

CHILD psy­chol­o­gists, re­searchers and a teen moms sup­port group have slammed Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s sug­ges­tion to have young moth­ers sep­a­rated from their ba­bies, call­ing it “lu­di­crous”, “un­in­formed” and “a recipe for dis­as­ter”.

Yes­ter­day, Cape Town psy­chol­o­gist Anel An­nan­dale said Zuma’s sug­ges­tions, if ever im­ple­mented, would ruin the lives of the teenage moms.

An­nan­dale works with chil­dren be­tween the ages of two to 21, and has a pas­sion for early child­hood devel­op­ment.

She said: “Teen moms are more likely to suf­fer from post-natal de­pres­sion be­cause they have so much anx­i­ety; on the one side they have to think about school and be­ing iso­lated from their peers. Hav­ing them to think about pos­si­bly be­ing re­moved from their ba­bies would be dev­as­tat­ing… it’s a recipe for dis­as­ter.”

While ad­dress­ing the Na­tional House of Tra­di­tional Lead­ers, on Tues­day, Zuma said teen moms should be sep­a­rated from their in­fants un­til they had com­pleted their school­ing.

This was the sec­ond time he had said this fol­low­ing his elec­tion cam­paign in 2009.

Zuma said: “They must be ed­u­cated by gov­ern­ment un­til they are em­pow­ered and they can take care of their kids, take them to Robben Is­land or any other is­land, sit there, study un­til they are qual­i­fied to come back and work to look af­ter their kids.”

An­nan­dale said the mother and child trust would later cause dif­fi­cul­ties in their fu­ture re­la­tion­ships.

“The teen won’t be able to con­cen­trate on school work, the child’s brain devel­op­ment will also be de­layed. The mother could end up not want­ing to come back for the child.”

Katharine Hall, from the Chil­dren’s In­sti­tute at UCT, said the state­ment was “lu­di­crous and un­in­formed”.

“There is a wide­spread be­lief that teenage preg­nancy is an es­ca­lat­ing prob­lem. This is not true. Fewer teenagers have ba­bies nowa­days than they did in ear­lier times.”

Teens in the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion were less likely to give birth than those in their moth- ers’ or grand­par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion.

She added that law al­lowed for preg­nant moms to con­tinue with their school­ing. “The idea of sep­a­rat­ing chil­dren from their moth­ers is in­ap­pro­pri­ate and un­help­ful. Early child­hood is a sen­si­tive de­vel­op­men­tal pe­riod when it is im­por­tant for chil­dren to be with their moth­ers.”

Ju­lia Starck, from the Par­ent Cen­tre or­gan­i­sa­tion, ques­tioned the sug­ges­tion.

“How can re­moval of moth­ers un­til they are ‘trained and qual­i­fied to take care of their chil­dren’ even be con­tem­plated?”

Marie Stopes spokes­woman An­drea Thomp­son said: “Par­ent­ing should be a choice of all ages. This sounds more like pun­ish­ing young women solely for fall­ing preg­nant.”

The DA has also called on Zuma to re­tract his state­ment.

DA na­tional spokes­woman Phumzile Van Damme said: “The pres­i­dent’s com­ments are not only ir­re­spon­si­ble, but ex­pose a deep-seated pa­tri­ar­chal think­ing be­hind his words.” She added Zuma, as the holder of the high­est of­fice in the land, had done an em­bar­rass­ing and of­fen­sive dis­ser­vice to the coun­try’s teenage preg­nancy cri­sis.

Dur­ing ques­tion time in Par­lia­ment, yes­ter­day, Zuma de­nied re­it­er­at­ing the state­ment at the Na­tional House of Tra­di­tional Lead­ers ad­dress.

He said he was merely ref­er­enc­ing back to when he first made the state­ment.

“I was re­spond­ing to a con­tri­bu­tion made by one of the tra­di­tional lead­ers. In fact, I was telling him on how I was stopped by women when I made the state­ment.”

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