The South African National Assembly yesterday adopted the revised changes to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill that decriminalises sex between consenting children within the ages of 12 and 15 and signed it into law.

Child protection experts from organisations that work with abused children and child offenders, have welcomed the new amendment, the Director of Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (RAPCAN), Christina Nomdo,  stated that, “there is a wealth of research in South Africa that shows that the most effective way to ensure that adolescents make healthy decisions is to build programmes to support parents to have open and non-judgemental communication with their children about relationships and their sexuality” adding  that criminalising the behaviour is not the best way to address unhealthy sexual activity in this age-group.

Prior to being passed into law, the Parliament’s portfolio committee on Justice and Correctional Services conducted public hearings into the controversial amendment earlier in March this year with the aim to hear people’s thoughts and opinions. The hearing has produced various debates with some NGOs like RAPCAN giving a nod to the amendments while churches and other community members argued that the decriminalisation should be extended up to 18 years old for consenting activity, while some maintained that the law which currently puts consent at the age of 16 years, should stay like that and not decrease it to 12 or 15.

Barely 2 days old, the new statute has sparked debate among South African communities while many people online have criticised the law which they say endorses the idea that young children as young as 12 years can give consent to sexual activities.

The inquiry into the amendment of this bill started in October 2013, when the Constitutional Court found that Sections 15 and 16 of the legislation were invalid and ordered Parliament to amend and RAPCAN, was one of the applicants in the case.

South Africa is not the only country that has revised the sexual offenses law recently Zimbabwe’s prosecutor general was heavily criticised after he made suggestions in the media that the courts should make it legal for 12 year-old girls to consent to sex and get married.

Source: Eye Witness News