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Pre-teen girls given birth control jabs

Girls aged between 10 and 13 were injected with contraceptives at their primary school in Zwide, Port Elizabeth

Nandipha Ngalo’s 11-year-old daughter was one of those who the Dora Nginza Hospital’s family planning unit injected at Emzomncane Primary, The Herald newspaper in PE reports.    

“My concern is what effect this will have on my daughter because  she hasn’t even started menstruating,” Ngalo said.    

A grade six pupil said the family planning unit gave them “a talk about menstruation and all that happens” and then injected each girl.    

The unit told the girls that the injection would prevent pregnancy if they were raped.    

Parents were called in afterwards and informed that their children had received birth control injections.     

Thuleka January, the principal of the school, denied knowledge of the forced birth control, and referred questions to the Port Elizabeth district education department.     

Nelson Mandela Bay gynaecologist Marcus van Heerden said the move was “totally unethical” and that the injection could delay puberty in such young girls.    

Dr Ann Skelton, of the Centre for Child Law at the University of  Pretoria, indicated the law wasn't so clear.

“On the one hand, the Children’s Act provides that children of 12 years and older can consent to their own treatment and that they can access reproductive health care services without their parents’ consent.

“For children below the age of 12, their parents must consent to their treatment,” she said.

“On the other hand, the Sexual Offences Act makes consenting sexual activity between children [between the ages of 12 and 16] an offence. Therefore, providing them with contraceptives seems to run contrary to the law.”

Advocate Lilla Crouse, of the Legal Aid Board, said even children aged 12 had to give “informed consent”.

Should it be found to the contrary, the school and nurses could be interdicted to stop the practice.

“Informed consent is that the child should be mature enough to understand the pros and cons and to be able to make a decision after having considered this,” she said.

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