TAC Electronic Newsletter
Defend the rights and health of children - Stop damaging
ammendments to the Children's Bill
23 November 2005
Write to Joyce Masilo, Chair of Select Committe on Social Services,
c/o, Arico Kotze, Committee Secretary, Select Committee on Social
Services stating that:
- Minimum age of consent for medical treatment in Children's Bill
must remain 12 years old and not be pushed up to 14.
- Minimum age of access to contraception must remain 12 years old
and not be pushed up to 14 or 16.
- Children have the right to keep their HIV status confidential.
Consent to testing and counselling must also be kept at 12.
- Therefore do not revise clauses 129, 130, 133 and 134 of the
The Department of Social Development and the Children's Bill Steering
Committee proposed on 25 October to raise the minimum age of consent to
medical treatment from 12 to 14 years, and the minimum age of access to
contraceptives from 12 to 14, or alternatively 16, years
of age. Submissions from the AIDS Law Project, Children's Rights
Centre, Children's Institute and other organisatings representing the
rights of children have argued against the proposals in the interest
of protecting the human rights of children, whose access to the health
system will be impaired if the proposals are passed into law. According
to the current version of the law, a child above the age of
12 may consent to medical treatment and should not be refused access to
contraceptives (both condoms and alternative forms).
Age is not the sole determinant of access to testing and treatment. The
child must be of sufficient maturity to understand the benefits, risks
and social and other implications of such testing or medical
treatment without parental supervision. If a child below
12 is deemed mature and well-informed enough about the decision,
they may also be given access to contraceptive and medical treatment
without parental supervision.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which South Africa ratified
in 1995, affirms that children should be involved in decision-making
processes so as to have full and equal access to the health system.
Partly due to the effect of the HIV epidemic, traditional family
structures in South Africa are undergoing rapid change. There are
substantial rises in numbers of orphans and child-headed households. A
recent study by the Reproductive Health Research Unit of the University
of the Witwatersrand also found that children are having sex at a
younger age, there are a higher number of unwanted pregnancies and that
many young people may not be comfortable discussing sexuality openly
with their parents. Therefore, consultation with parents should be
encouraged, but not required by law. Increasing the age of
consent also prevents quick access to post-exposure prophylaxis and the
“morning-after pill”, which are especially necessary measures in a
country with a high rate of sexual violence.
The proposed ammendment to the Children's Bill does not only endanger
the human rights of children between the ages of 12 and 14, it also
contradicts other pieces of legislation that affirm children's
independence and decision-making abilities. For example, the Choice of
Termination of Pregnancy Act has no age limitation. The Children's
Bill itself provides that a child may decide if it wishes to be adopted
if it is at least 10 years old, or if it is under 10 years and has the
maturity to make such a decision. The Aids Law Project, Children's
Rights Centre, Children's Institute and other children's organisations
therefore have called for the original recommendations of the Law
Commission on s.129 and s.134 of the Children's Bill to be preserved.
The age of consent to medical treatment and the age of consent to
contraception should stay at 12 years of age.
Fax Joyce Masilo, Chair of Select Committe on Social Services, c/o,
Arico Kotze at 021 403 2808 to express disapproval of the proposed
Suggested form of letter:
We oppose the increase of the age of consent from
12 to 14 for medical treatment, access to contraceptives and access to
HIV counselling and testing as proposed
to s.129, s. 130, s. 133 and s.134 of the Children's Bill. We endorse
the AIDS Law
Project, Children's Institute and Children's Rights Centre submissions
in this regard, which
we understand you have received.
The AIDS Law Project's submission can be found here.
Useful information on the Children's Bill and other issues related to
children can be found on the Children's Institute website.
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