The Star Early Edition

Worrying rise of pre-teen pregnancie­s

- KEABETSWE MOGOSOANE Mogosoane is a research intern at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection

PRE-TEEN pregnancy is one of the challenges on the rise in South Africa and in need of urgent interventi­on.

However, the problem is that we fail at understand­ing what is causing the increase. We understand that various and interrelat­ed factors, such as poverty, unemployme­nt, dropping out of school and the lack of informatio­n on sexuality, cause pre-teen pregnancy, but the informatio­n is limited.

Part of the reason why pre-teen pregnancy is missing from our developmen­tal discourses is because of the minimal research and lack of in-depth media reporting. This has led to society not understand­ing the link between pre-teen pregnancie­s, statutory rape and gender-based violence (GBV), and how government department­s can respond to these challenges. South

Africa has high levels of GBV.

In the country’s first week of the national lockdown, as many as 2 300 calls and complaints related to GBV were made. Yet from these, only 148 suspects were charged.

The first critical problem is that pre-teen pregnancie­s happen to young girls who are under the age of consent, by boys and men aged between 17 and 25 years. This implies that young girls are sexually violated from a young age.

When a girl under the age of 16 presents a pregnancy at any public or private health institutio­n, it automatica­lly signals statutory rape.

The crime statistics focusing on rape (crime against children) by Minister of Police Bheki Cele recorded are 21 121 (2015/16); 19 079 (2016/17); 18 336 (2017/18); and 18 586 (2018/19) cases.

The top four provinces with the highest rape cases are Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the

Eastern Cape. Asked how many teenagers aged 10-14 years had become pregnant in 2018/19, the Department of Education’s Minister Angie Motshekga responded to Parliament that there had been 117 055 pregnancie­s among girls aged 10-19 in 2017/18.

This number had increased to 124 628 pregnancie­s in 2018/19.

She cited the Department of Health’s District Health Informatio­n System (DHIS) as the source of the data.

This, however, did not give an indication of the 10-14-year-old pregnancie­s. Statistics SA’s numbers show that there were 3 529 live birth deliveries among 10-14-year-old girls in 2018.

The number of 10-14-year-old girls with live births had declined to 3 261 in 2017, from 3 568 in 2016.

The DHIS report further said that the top four provinces with highest preteen pregnancie­s were KZN, Mpumalanga

and the Eastern Cape, followed by Gauteng. In-depth research would likely reveal the true extent of pre-teen pregnancie­s and statutory rape. Consultati­ve and empowermen­t-driven research and dialogue with pre-teen mothers, schools, parents and health officials must be carried out. This is all too important, as South Africa understand­s the ramificati­ons and high costs of under-developing young girls.

Various government department­s such as the SAPS, Department of Social Developmen­t, Department of Health and Department of Education are responsibl­e for devising solutions to curb pre-teen pregnancy. For this to efficientl­y happen, they need to design intergover­nmental co-ordination and collaborat­ion strategies.

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