A member of parliament in Swaziland / eSwatini Michael Masuku called for teenagers who become pregnant to be arrested so they can be corrected and learn from their mistakes.
The Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku said that it was crucial to evaluate if the teenagers fell pregnant willingly or were abused, before considering enacting a law that would criminalise teenage pregnancy.
The submission was made at a workshop of members of parliament.
The Times of Swaziland reported Michael Masuku said, ‘Teenage pregnancy should be a punishable offence to reduce its escalating rate in the country.’
It added, ‘Masuku suggested that there should be a law that stipulates an age when girls who are found pregnant should be arrested for a year so that they may be corrected and learn from their mistakes.
‘The MP said teenage pregnancy should be made a punishable offence, just like offences under the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence (SODV) Act.’
The newspaper added, ‘In this way, the MP stated that minor girls would refrain from having early sexual intercourse, which ultimately led to pregnancies and school dropouts.’
The Times reported, ‘Responding, DPM Themba Masuku highlighted that it was crucial to evaluate if the teenagers fell pregnant willingly or were abused, before considering enacting a law that would criminalise teenage pregnancy.’
In Swaziland, the law states that the age of consent for sexual intercourse is 18. The SODV that came into effect in 2018 makes it a crime to have sex with someone under that age. It states that a person under 18 is ‘incapable in law of appreciating the nature of the sexual act’.
Therefore, in law, the criminal in such cases is the man and not the woman.
Teenage pregnancy in Swaziland has been a concern for many years. The Ministry of Sports, Culture, and Youth Affairs in the Swaziland State of the Youth Report 2015, stated that in 2007, teenage pregnancy was at 24 percent and over the years it has not shown much decline despite attempts at education and other interventions.
The report stated, ‘Pregnancy among girls less than 18 years of age has a number of negative consequences. It violates the rights of girls and can pose life-threatening consequences.’
It added, ‘Early pregnancy can have lasting negative effects in terms of sexual and reproductive health for young women and it poses high development costs for communities, particularly in perpetuating the cycle of poverty.’
In 2014, 16.7 percent of women between 20-24 had at least one live birth before 18 years of age.’
Young people in Swaziland begin engaging in sexual activity at an early age. The average age at first intercourse in Swaziland is 16 years for girls and 18 years for boys. Delaying first sexual intercourse is strongly linked with more years of education in young women, and a reduced risk to HIV exposure and early pregnancy.
The MPs workshop was told that 1,046 girls had dropped out of school due to teenage pregnancy. The DPM’s Office presently has a campaign to reduce pre-teen, teenage and post-teenage pregnancies by 50 per cent by 2023.
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