Earlier this month, a controversial bill, allowing consenting teens to have sex if they want to, was passed into law in south Africa. The ‘teen sex law’, as it is now frequently referred to, has left several faith-based lobby groups irate, while rights advocacy groups are pleased. Before this, teens couldn’t pet, cuddle or kiss – even if both parties were consenting – without breaking the law. Now, they are free to do it and, though the age of consent is 16, the law “includes a close-in-age exception, which means that sexual acts between two children, where both are between 12 and 16, or where one is under 16 and the other is less than two years older, are not criminal.”
While the law may now be official, what do the people primarily affected by it think about it? Noni Mokati of IOL News, recently took to the streets to find out the views of a few teenagers and, it must be said, a number of the responses are revealing. Here are a few of them:
Errol McKenzie, 15*
”I have no clue what this law says, nor have I heard of it.
“I had sex when I was 15. I wasn’t prepared for it but I did know a bit about it because of what we learnt from school.
“My parents didn’t know about it then and I felt comfortable. I fumbled through my first time. It wasn’t perfect but I somehow managed. Therefore, it makes no difference to me whether there is a law or not. I believe what our parents don’t know won’t hurt them. I would have been too embarrassed to tell them anyway.”
Micaela Levi, 16
“I’ve never heard about this (bill) before. I’m Jewish, so in my belief system, we are not allowed to have sex until we are married.
“It doesn’t make sense why there would be laws prohibiting teenagers from drinking and yet we, as 16 year olds, can have sex. It just doesn’t make sense. It shouldn’t be a right at this age.”
Shannon Lorie, 17
“At that age you are still a minor. People could misuse this whole thing.”
Gabby Gutto, 18.
“I don’t agree with this entire concept. I believe in the old law that (stops) underage kids from having sex.
“I’ve heard of instances where adults can’t even deal with the responsibilities of sleeping around.
“Sex is a decision that should be based on responsibility. I don’t think 12-year-olds are responsible, period.
“At least with the old laws there were consequences. Now it could be a free for all.”
Felicity Gabriella, 17
“I don’t think we should be allowed, period.”
* Not his real name
For me, a good number of these responses are telling because they reveal something that the movement for all rights at all costs keeps missing: young people, regardless of how boisterous and independent they may like to show themselves to be, need the guidance of their elders. Adults are (or, at least, should be) adults for a reason. They should be there to ensure that young people don’t burn themselves and get into complex areas of life that they don’t have the maturity to handle. This isn’t about repression, it’s about responsibility. As much as youngsters are handed freedoms, let them be taught responsibility and be guided on what it means to be grounded. If not, we’re headed for disaster.
The kind of grounding we’re talking about cannot happen without an examination of the spirit and coming to terms with who we really are. An adult or mature person cannot give what they do not have. What do you believe in and what are you passing onto the next generation? Where will it land them in the future?
These are uncomfortable questions for many but they all land firmly on the doorstep of faith and belief. If you have questions in this area, please click on the banner below and watch the video that follows. We’d also like to hear your comments in the box below.
Part of this post was sourced from an IOL News article by Noni Mokati. The views in this article do not represent those of that publication.