A CONTROVERSIAL ruling this week by the Pretoria High Court which effectively decriminalises consensual sex between teenagers has been met with mixed feelings by parents and religious organisations on the one hand, and children’s rights groups on the other.
Pretoria High Court Judge Pierre Rabie’s ruling, made on Tuesday, decriminalises consensual sex between children aged between 12 and 16.
It follows an application by the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children, supported by the Centre for Child law, in April last year which challenged provisions of the Sexual Offences Act. The application, which was directed at having certain provisions of the act declared unconstitutional as they infringed on a child’s right to privacy and dignity, was opposed by both the minister of justice and the national director of public prosecutions.
While the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children, and Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Rapcan) declared the ruling a victory yesterday, Nelson Mandela Bay commentators slated it as a catalyst for serious problems going forward.
Mufti Siraj Desai, who is the imam of the Malabar Mosque and principal of its Islamic school, said any romance or sexual activity was unacceptable from an Islamic standpoint, as the religion did not tolerate sex outside of marriage.
"Regardless of that, this ruling is totally unacceptable as it may have the effect of promoting promiscuous behaviour and because children of these ages may use it as an excuse to abuse the law,” he said.
Pastor Heinrich Alberts of the Port Elizabeth Hooglands Dutch Reformed Church was shocked, saying he "cannot believe such a ruling could be made”.
"Children of this age are not emotionally or otherwise prepared for this,” he said.
Pastor Warren Muller of the St Martin’s Presbyterian Church in Kabega Park said he too was shocked by the decision.
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