Lockdowns cause dramatic increase in teen pregnancies and spike in GBV cases
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CAPE TOWN- More than 14 000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 fell pregnant from April 2017 to March 2021.
This emerged when the Department of Basic Education briefed MPs on Tuesday, attributing the rise in pregnancies in young people to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the age group of girls between 10 and 19 years old, the Northern Cape had the highest number of deliveries between April 2020 and March 2021 at 19.3%. This is followed by the Eastern Cape with 17.1%, KwaZulu-Natal 16.5% and Mpumalanga 15.5%. Gauteng recorded the fewest teen pregnancies with 8.9%.
The department’s deputy director-general Granville Whittle told the committee that the country saw a 37% spike in gender-based violence (GBV) complaints in the first week of total lockdown.
The lockdown, he said, has exposed the many inequities that affect adolescent girls in particular and has increased their vulnerability.
Granville said that often children are either victims of, or witnesses to, domestic violence, which results in harmful effects on their physical health, mental development and well-being.
The committee heard that rape, child abuse and GBV were “highly prevalent” and contributed to the issue of teenage pregnancy.
Key findings on the effects of the pandemic were that school closures and containment measures resulted in loss of education and social protections, which saw increases in teen pregnancy, sexual exploitation and sexual violence.
According to Granville, there were about 1 300 new cases of HIV in adolescent girls and young women, with 46% of the cases of children being sexual abuse complaints.
He said the HIV prevalence among young women was nearly four times greater than that of young men.
In an effort to educate learners, the department introduced the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) system, which is aimed at equipping children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values.
In addition, learners were educated on how to identify and report sexual abuse, remain HIV negative (and remain on treatment if positive) and prevent pregnancy, among other things.
Chairperson of the portfolio committee on basic education, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, implored parents to deal with issues of the past such as not addressing sex education with children.
“We need to be radical when we deal with it. It’s only those parents who have a culture of sitting around a table, having dinner and speaking to their children who do this ... many of us don’t do this.
“It is a matter very close to us. We are all raising children. There is no one who can say ‘I have perfected how to raise a child’ because there is no formula that really guides people on how to raise children,” Mbinqo-Gigaba said.