Why South Africa’s stance on teenage pregnancy needs a radical review

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By Catriona Macleod and Tracey Feltham-King

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Much has been made lately in South Africa about the rise in teenage pregnancies prior to now 12 months, fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.

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Sensationalisation of such pregnancies isn’t new. Every couple of years newspaper headlines shout ethical outrage on the charges of early copy.

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The focus of discussions then often turns to prevention. Solutions posed are largely premised on the idea that younger girls are answerable for their scenario – via ignorance, fecklessness, insurrection, or lack of assertiveness.

We argue that a totally different strategy is required. Instead of asking, “How can teenage pregnancies be prevented?”, the next query must be posed: “How can reproductive injustices in relation to younger girls be diminished?”

Reproductive justice as a idea has gained important floor within the final decade. The basic rules are that ladies and gender queer individuals with uteri have:

  • the suitable to not have a youngster
  • the suitable to have a youngster
  • the suitable to dad or mum kids in secure and wholesome environments.

Reproductive justice approaches are centered on how particular person rights intersect with the socio-political or well being contexts wherein they’re taken up.

So, what would this imply within the case of early copy in South Africa?

We take every of the rules above and unpack them in relation to younger individuals, and clarify in every case how reproductive injustices forestall them from exercising their company and rights.

Before we begin, you will need to word that not all pregnancies amongst younger individuals are unplanned, and never all unplanned pregnancies are undesirable. In addition, regardless of the media often sensationalising the pregnancies of these youthful than 16, the overwhelming majority happen within the higher age vary – 17 to 19 years previous.

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The proper to not have a youngster

Reproductive injustice number one.

For these younger individuals who have undesirable or unsupportable pregnancies, information about and entry to abortion companies are very restricted. Abortion is legal on request in South Africa as much as 12 weeks of gestation, and thereafter on sure circumstances.

Information is briefly provide about the legality of abortion, that minors don’t want parental permission to entry the companies, and the place companies might be discovered. Even the lately scripted complete sexuality schooling lesson plans rolled out by the Department of Basic Education don’t cowl any points of abortion.

Reproductive injustice quantity 2.

Policy in South Africa permits minors (youthful than 18) to entry contraception without parental consent. In actuality, accessing companies is difficult. Stories abound of harsh and scolding attitudes of clinic workers; clinics working at inopportune occasions and being oversubscribed and under-resourced; frequent stock-outs; and younger individuals being turned away without contraception.

Reproductive injustice quantity 3.

It is well-known that sexual violence and sexual coercion are main challenges in South Africa. Research exhibits that learners throughout the board, together with in major faculty, count on and expertise excessive ranges of sexual violence or coercion from friends and adults. Coercion could take many varieties, together with items in trade for intercourse (so-called transactional intercourse).

Reproductive injustice quantity 4.

Comprehensive sexuality schooling has been supplied in faculties for years now. However, analysis exhibits that learners really feel disconnected from the messages contained within the curriculum as a result of they don’t mirror the complexities and realities of their lives.

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Instead, what’s emphasised is injury – chances are you’ll conceive and break your life – and illness – chances are you’ll contract a sexually transmitted an infection. In addition, academics are ill-prepared, and have a tendency to make use of moralising modes of educating, moderately than participating in severe dialogue with learners.

The proper to have a youngster

Reproductive injustice quantity 5.

Teenage moms are seen as “illegitimate” reproductive topics. A spread of causes are given, together with obstetric issues, poor youngster outcomes, and curtailed profession prospects for the dad or mum. But comparative analysis exhibits that when different variables are considered – particularly socio-economic standing – youthful and older dad and mom fare just about the identical. In truth current analysis exhibits that adolescent maternal and pregnancy-related mortality is decrease than grownup maternal and pregnancy-related mortality.

Reproductive injustice quantity 6.

The knee-jerk response that “teenage pregnancy” (versus undesirable or unsupportable pregnancies) must be prevented in any respect prices signifies that they don’t get the healthcare they want. Teenagers are inclined to report late for antenatal care, for a number of causes.

First, that is a normal inhabitants pattern amongst South African girls of all ages. Second, as with many older girls, they could not decide up the indicators that they’re pregnant. Third, they concern the reprobation of antenatal clinic workers. Indeed, analysis highlights the insufficient and discriminatory remedy that youngsters typically obtain when accessing care, particularly in under-resourced and oversubscribed clinics.

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The proper to be a dad or mum in a secure and wholesome setting

Reproductive injustice quantity 7.

Around the globe, early copy happens extra often amongst individuals residing in low-resource or poor settings than in middle-class neighbourhoods. Within these settings, life prospects – together with employment, accessing additional schooling, affording respectable childcare, wholesome life expectancy – are severely circumscribed.

Childbearing affords significant grownup exercise and strengthens household networks in these circumstances. In addition, having kids early means you may rely on prolonged household for childcare. Finally, given a foreshortened wholesome life expectancy, having kids whereas younger and wholesome is smart. Prevention efforts that fail to take these sorts of nuances under consideration are sure to fail.

Reproductive injustice quantity 8.

Feminists fought lengthy and onerous for the rights of reproductive our bodies within the office. When it comes to varsities, nonetheless, there was little progress. Although expelling learners for pregnancy is unlawful in South Africa, many depart anyway due to strain or stigma. Few preparations to cowl maternity depart, organize on-site childcare, and allow breastfeeding are ever made.

What to do?

First, the injustices talked about above should be addressed. This contains:

  • making abortion companies recognized and accessible
  • coaching and supporting all clinic workers in offering patient-centred, non-judgemental care (contraceptive, antenatal and abortion care)
  • tackling sexual and gender-based violence with rigour
  • coaching and supporting sexuality schooling academics in offering related, open and dialogical pedagogy
  • vigorously tackling youth unemployment
  • extending the rights loved by working individuals to pregnant learners.
  • Second, arrange monitoring and analysis of those efforts to see how they’re faring.

The Conversation

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