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Action Needed amid Increased Rape, Teenage Pregnancies in South Africa: Catholic Entity

The logo of the Catholic Institute of Education (CIE). Credit: Catholic Institute of Education (CIE)

Reports of increased cases of rape and teenage pregnancies in South Africa are a cause for concern for officials of the Catholic Institute of Education (CIE) who are calling for an “urgent response” to address the crisis. 

Last week, a member of the Executive Council of the country’s Gauteng Province, Nomathemba Mokgethi, reported that the provincial Health Department had recorded more than 23,000 teenage pregnancies with 934 girls aged 10 and 14 giving birth between April 2020 and March 2021.

Separately, South Africa’s Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, announced that that 10,006 cases of rape were registered between April and June 2021, a 72.4 percent increase compared to the same period in 2020. 

“An urgent response is needed to both these issues,” CIE officials say in a Thursday, August 26 statement. 

They add referencing the Gauteng and national data, “These two sets of statistics can be linked. What we are seeing in teenage pregnancy in Gauteng and the national rape statistics is exactly what was warned about – that lockdown would see increased abuse.”

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“This begs the question – how many of the 23,000 girls were abused or raped?” they pose, and add that the majority of the recorded cases “would be statutory rape according to South African law.”

In order to address the situation, CIE officials say they have “alerted school leaders and Child Safeguarding Persons to the possibility of increased abuse.”

“However, there are inadequate numbers of social workers and social support,” they say and add, “What is not addressed is, how are we as families and communities, forming boys and young men in attitudes and behavior.”

They continue, “Do girls have the correct information, not only to understand their own sexuality but also where to seek help when abused?”

Despite the challenges, officials of the Catholic entity in South Africa say they are “currently developing a sexuality program for Catholic schools and will continue to implement the Catholic Board of Educations’ Child safeguarding Policy in order to keep God’s children safe.”

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Last year, at the height of increased cases of femicide and Gender-Based violence in the country, Catholic Bishops called for a change of approach in tackling these issues and proposed “an “aggressive and holistic approach.”  

 “We are calling for a process of rethinking the approach to gender-based violence and femicide, drawing parallels from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic that witnessed the involvement of government departments, business sector, civil society and ordinary citizens in their efforts to flatten the infection curve,” members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) said in June 2020.

They explained that the need for the “aggressive and holistic approach is guided by the fact that the government identified gender-based violence as one of the most defining public health, social and human rights issues that confront and affect the country today.”