The Star Early Edition
Worrying rise of pre-teen pregnancies
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.