Law allows kids private abortions

Zinhle Mapumulo and Rebaone Mangope

Zinhle Mapumulo and Rebaone Mangope

The new Children's Act, which came into effect on Sunday, has sparked mixed reactions from parents.

Some believe the act makes it easy for children as young as 12 to become sexually active and have abortions without the consent of their parents.

Zingaphi Matanzima, spokesman for the Department of Social Development, dismissed these concerns.

"The act states that a child as young as 12 has a right to access medical services, which include abortion, HIV testing and contraception," she said.

"It is a reproductive right for any woman to terminate pregnancy, as entrenched in the main section of the Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1996.

"The amended act only grants children from the age of 12 the right to access medical services such as HIV treatment and contraception without parental consent. It doesn't promote sexual activity but gives effect to certain constitutional rights of children."

The act also contains new provisions on parental responsibilities and rights of unmarried fathers, relating to access to and custody of their children. It also amends the majority age from 21 to 18.

Child health specialist and mother Konji Sebati said she was against the idea of 12-year-olds having the right to HIV tests without parental consent.

"The section about HIV testing in the act will cause both physical and emotional trauma for 12-year-olds."

"The consequence of HIV-Aids results are too overwhelming for a 12-year old to handle," Sebati said.

Another mother, Thandi Sikhotha, differed with Sebati.

She said the act would reduce teenage pregnancy and HIV infection.

"Our children should be grateful that they have the option to access contraception at such a young age. I commend the government for approving this act," she said.

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