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Mon Nov 24 14:18:24 SAST 2014

Parents ultimately responsible for children's sexuality

The Times Editorial | 21 January, 2013 00:08

The Times Editorial; The ruling by the Pretoria High Court last week that allows consensual sex between children aged between 12 and 16 has, predictably, caused a furore.

The ruling struck down a section of the Sexual Offences Act that prohibited children of these ages having sex.

Those supporting the judgment say it decriminalises the actions of children who have consensual sex and acknowledges a reality that we need to face - that our young children are engaging in sexual intimacy.

Those who oppose the ruling - including 30 school principals who entered an affidavit into the court record setting out their objections - believe that a licence has been given to children to have sex.

In their affidavit, the principals say they believe it is important to have a deterrent that protects children from harming themselves, and from the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

The principals say that striking down this aspect of the law means that children will now assume that it is okay for them to have sex from a very early age.

The ruling should prompt serious thought and alarm about how we are raising our children.

On a societal level, the thought of sexual relations between 12-year-olds is frightening.

When we are faced with these realities, our immediate instinct is to displace blame by pointing fingers at popular culture and adult predators. We seldom blame ourselves for ceding responsibility when it comes to raising our children and instilling values that will carry them into adulthood.

As Archbishop Thabo Makgoba writes elsewhere in this newspaper, much of the blame lies with us. Makgoba eloquently talks about the adult apathy and inaction that "allows contexts to develop in which these things happen". He is correct. It is time that parents shouldered more responsibility in raising their children. Being outraged by a judge's ruling doesn't help.

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