Public weighs in on bid to decriminalise teen sex

Justice committee chair Dr Mathole Motshekga says the approach of penalising adolescents for engaging in sex is not in the best interest of the children.

Justice committee chair Dr Mathole Motshekga says the approach of penalising adolescents for engaging in sex is not in the best interest of the children.

If sex between adolescents is decriminalised, then a 12-year-old should be allowed to drive and vote, as they should be seen as mature enough to handle all decisions.

And consensual sex between children could leave them with emotional scars.

This is according to some of the submissions made during the second day of the public participation process on the amendments to the 2007 Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act.

The amendments are a bid to bring the Act in line with two Constitutional Court judgments that call for Parliament to make sure children aged between 12 and 16 are not criminalised for engaging in consensual sex if the age gap is two years or less.

Mkhangeli Matomela of the Kingdom Governance Movement (KGM) told Parliament’s justice committee that the campaign of decriminalising sex between children was planned by agents of Satan to corrupt society.

“This is not an accident. Therefore, we must know allow our democratic institutions to be used as agents for the forces of darkness. KGM strongly suggests that this liberal Constitution be amended on the basis of positive values, principles, ethics and moral standards in order to establish a value based constitutional order.”

Culture, religion, morality and values were some of the key issues on which submissions were based throughout the two days of consultations, especially from faith-based organisations.

Moral perspective
The Foundation of Nation Restoration said adolescent sex was wrong from a moral perspective and a scriptural one, while the Muslim Judicial Council said children should not indulge in intimacy and are taught in the Muslim culture to supress and overpower those desires for as long as possible.

Sanja Bornman of non-profit organisation the Women’s Legal Centre said the unintended consequences around the National Register for Sex Offenders must be carefully considered.

“Particularly in the light of the irrational manner in which these provisions can play out in practical reality and the harmful consequences for children in general and girl children in particular.”

They emphasised that decriminalisation did not amount to the encouragement of teenage sexual activities.

“While it is not necessarily desirable for adolescents to engage in the full range of consensual sexual activity with one another, the criminal justice system is simply not an appropriate response mechanism to teach healthy sexual behaviour and decision-making.”

‘Dynamic’ society
Justice committee chairperson Dr Mathole Motshekga said they were taking note of all the issues raised in the more than 900 submissions.

He said it was unfortunate that people seemed to think the Bill was to encourage adolescents to have sexual intercourse.

“We think it is largely influenced by the fact that people are looking at it from their religious standpoints and also, being forgetful of the fact that society is dynamic.
When those scriptures were written, we didn’t have pornography and all these situations we find ourselves in now.

“Government has got to respond to the challenges of the times and one of the greatest challenges is that we penalise children for things they should not be penalised for. And we do so in the name of child protection. But the consequences are that we are brutalising and damaging these children. The approach of penalising them is not in the best interest of the children and we are guided by the best interest of the children.”

Motshekga said they were not dealing with lowering the age but with the realities in South Africa now.

“We are simply saying these children are doing these things, and society itself has not succeeded despite their religious organisations to address the situation. They cannot leave it to the law to deal with something they should be dealing with themselves, because the law then takes harsh penalties, which are not in the interest of the children. We can’t have a legal system that traumatises children.”

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