JASA assembles experts to oppose bid to lower age of sexual consent

The Justice Alliance of South Africa (JASA) has assembled a lineup of experts to support its argument against an application by  Teddy Bear Clinic and RAPCAN to strike down sections 15 and 16 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007, declaring as unconstitutional a law that says sex between underage children is a crime.

This was disclosed in a press release today by JASA, which together with The Women’s Legal Centre was admitted as a friend of the court in April, respectively to assist the State to oppose the application on its merits, and to take legal points relating to gender equality.

In a press release today, JASA says the extensively researched experts’ reports were attached to a lengthy affidavit filed on August 15. All of the reports adamantly opposed the attempt to change the law which had been passed by Parliament as recently as 2007 after 5 years of deliberations.

JASA’s evidence to assist the court consists of the following:

1.    A report by Dr Monty Brink, specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist

2.    A report by Dr Ashley Wewege, specialist paediatrician

3.    A report by Professor Elna McIntosh, specialist sexologist and Director of DISA

4.    A report by Celeste van der Merwe, a Director of The Parent Centre

5.    The Report on the 2008 and 2009 Annual Surveys for Ordinary Schools issued by the Department of Basic Education, particularly page 39, which provides statistics for the number of learners who fell pregnant in each Province and Grade. (www.education.gov.za/DocumentsLibrary/Reports/tabid/358/Default.aspx)

6.    An affidavit from David de Korte, President of the SA Principals Association, Western Cape, and Principal of Camps Bay High School. In his affidavit, supported by a list of over 30 principals of both primary and high schools, Mr de Korte says the task of controlling teenage sexual behaviour would become a “nightmare” for school authorities if the Teddy Bear application were to succeed.

7.    The report South Africa: Sexual violence and HIV/AIDS National Youth Survey, 2001-2004 (CIET Project Report).

8.    A Report compiled and researched on behalf of Doctors for Life International by Professors Tuviah Zabow and Freda Briggs, assisted by Judith Riesman,Ph.D and Dr Albu van Eeden, CEO of Doctors for Life. This report was presented to Parliament when the Act in question was being debated as a Bill.

In the press release JASA says its experts warn against the dangers of early sex both on psychological grounds and on the grounds of the enormous danger of the spread of HIV and other diseases amongst teenagers too young to be aware of the risks and prone to impulsive behaviour.

“JASA of course has no wish to see prosecutions brought against adolescents;  in the exceptional case (such as the Jules Verne High School case last year) where the authorities do make use of the legislation, then ‘diversion’ rather than prosecution is provided for in the Child Justice legislation. However we shall urge on the Court that in common with almost all western countries, it is right and proper for South Africa to have this legislation on the statute book, as a deterrent against behaviour which is likely to harm the child, and which he/she  is likely to regret in the aftermath.”

JASA believes that the vast majority of citizens of South Africa would support the view that sex during childhood is emphatically not in the best interests of a child, says the press release. To remove the deterrent of the law would throw open the door even wider to promiscuity, intimidation of girls as young as 12 by adolescent boys, HIV and sexual diseases, and ever rising statistics for unwanted pregnancies amongst learners.

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