Sex facts parents will not accept

28 November 2012 - 02:06 By KATHARINE CHILD

A new survey has confirmed what many South Africans already know - but some parents refuse to accept.

At least a third of all teenagers have sex before the age of 16.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation did what it called a "quick-fire, broad-brush survey" of young people's attitudes to sex in four African countries. They released the results yesterday in Johannesburg.

Using the Mxit cellphone application, 7662 young South Africans were surveyed in one week, answering questions about when they first had sex, from whom they learned most about sex and contraception use.

Among the key findings were:

  • 11% had sex for the first time before they were 14;
  • 20% had sex for the first time between the ages of 14 and 16;
  • 34% always used contraception but 37% only used it "sometimes";
  • Of those surveyed, 38%, learned most about sex from friends.

The results correlate with previous research, which paints a picture of a sexually active South African youth.

A Department of Education report in May said 107 pupils in Grade 3 became pregnant in 2009, up from 69 in 2008.

Childline therapeutic manager Annie Varaden said yesterday that her organisation had heard of children as young as nine having sex.

"We find girls who are sexually active even before they have menstruated."

Despite all this, there is widespread resistance to making contraception and sex information available to teenagers above the age of 16 - the legal age of consent.

A startling finding of the federation's survey was that only 4% of children said they had learned the most about sex from their parents.

Varaden said many parents believe that talking to their children about sex would encouraging them to become sexually active.

"The fact, though, is that age-appropriate information delays sexual activity."

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