Legal Corner: New policy aims to protect pregnant girls

Legal corner

In December 2021 the Department of Basic Education introduced a new policy which will prohibit schools from excluding or expelling pregnant pupils, while making it compulsory to report cases of statutory rape to police.

The newly gazetted policy stipulates that schools send police reports if a pregnant girl is under the age of 16 and the father of the child is older than 16. This will then be followed by criminal procedures.

According to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act of 2007, the age of consent to sex for both boys and girls is 16. So, if an underage girl falls pregnant by a person who is 18 years or older, it is considered as statutory rape.

The policy states that the rate of pregnancies in schools have become a “major challenge” for national development and the basic education system, prompting the new regulations.

Girls and Boys Town South Africa (GBTSA) stands firmly behind the policy and hopes that this offers another layer of protection to our vulnerable youth.

Studies show that education raises women’s standard of living in economic, social and health terms. According to UNICEF, girls’ education strengthens economies and reduces inequality. It contributes to more stable, resilient societies that give all individuals – including boys and men – the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

Therefore, the policy could not have come at a better time. It allows for girls to feel safe in their classrooms and supported in the challenges that they face. It also gives them the choice of completing their education without the fear of being excluded from school.

Key policy focus:

  • Prohibits schools from excluding learners as a result of their pregnancy. It will allow the learner to remain in school during her pregnancy and to return as soon as possible after giving birth. Schools are required to assist the pregnant learners to continue with their education during and after pregnancy.
  • Learners are required to provide a medical certificate stating that they are fit to attend classes.
  • Educators are prohibited from having sex with learners regardless of whether the person was given consent by a learner who is 16 years or older. Educators will be subjected to thorough background checks and security clearance to minimise the risk of sexual encounters between learners and educators.

As part of our therapies and programmes GBTSA offers comprehensive sexuality education and services to ensure that our youth are equipped with the knowledge and tools to protect themselves and to make informed choices.

We believe that every child, including youth who are entrusted in our care, has the right to education.

To read the full policy visit:

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