What SA's Teenage Pregnancy Rate Reveals About It's Societal Issues

Teenage pregnancy continues to be a prevalent issue in South African, particularly with the latest statistical data showing a sharp rise in the rate of teenage pregnancies in some parts of South Africa. Research experts discuss what this reveals about South Africa's social ills.

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Newly released statistical data on teenage pregnancies, by the Gauteng government, has revealed a disturbing increase in the rate of teenage pregnancies in some parts of South Africa over the past few months.

This comes after it was revealed that 6469 teenage girls aged between 14 and 19 gave birth in the Free State over the past nine months, while Gauteng saw a 60% spike in teenage pregnancies over the same period.

In addition to this, 872 young children in the Free State were reported to have been raped between April and September this year.

During a discussion on what this reveals about the country's societal ills, Chair of the Sexual Reproductive Justice Coalition Board, Lebo Ramafoko says that the main problem is that homes are no longer safe spaces for women in the country.

This has been made more evident by the spike in gender-based based violence cases during the lockdown period. She says that economic inequality also plays a part in worsening the issue.

Drawing on the psychological risks that lead to teenage pregnancy, Education psychologist Jessie-Anne Bird, stated that research has revealed on multiple occasions that a teenager in distress is more likely to fall pregnant. She adds that this is particularly the case for teenagers who do not receive any psychological, emotional or financial support.

And this is what we need to think about, is that there is this correlation between psychology and unplanned pregnancy in adolescents. We also need to look at the direction that goes in, because that will tell us where we need to focus our efforts and where we need to focus our support. 

She also points out that the country faces several challenges around unplanned pregnancies, more so in disadvantaged communities, some of which are centred around keeping young girls in school, stigma and shame. Bird also states that there needs to be a lot of consideration placed around the long term effects of these unplanned teenage pregnancies.

Ramafoko on the other hand points to a number of other factors that are directly linked to these unplanned pregnancies, such as lack of accountability among the men who are responsible for these pregnancies.

We have got a maintenance act in South Africa, but you can just take a sample of how many women and listen to what many of them are saying about supporting children, despite earning very little, with men who go scot-free even though we've got a law against not supporting your child.

She also says that moralizing sexuality among the youth with educating them on the resulting social consequences also plays a part in worsening the problem.

She also points the issue of inaction among communities when it comes to providing support to children at times when there is no parental supervision and how this tends to contribute to predatory behaviour.

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