While festive cheer fills the halls of public hospitals across the country as provincial health departments report on hundreds of babies born on Christmas Day, KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has warned that “new sweeping changes” will see the tighter application of existing legislation which will see men who impregnate girls under the age of 16 being charged with statutory rape.
Among the new mothers who gave birth on Wednesday were 14 and 16 years old, she said.
She described statutory rape as a form of gender-based violence, maintaining that paying “reparations” for “damage” caused to young pregnant girls “will not absolve offenders against prosecution”.
“We must indicate that we are worried about the ages of some of the mothers. The likelihood is that that 14-year-old mother [who gave birth at Vryheid Hospital] could have been impregnated at the age of 13. That is statutory rape,” she said.
“We are going to start implementing the law. The department of health, along with our counterparts at social development and SAPS, will have to come in and ensure that the perpetrators are apprehended. There’s just no way a 14-year-old could have consented to sex, regardless of what is being said.
“We do want to call on our communities to stop this tendency of accepting ‘damages’, because we know that in some areas, once a perpetrator realises their victim is pregnant, they suddenly come to the family and pay ‘reparations’. That is against the law. Whether you’ve paid damages or not, it is against the law.”
She said that even if the father of the infant is 18, as in this case, “having sex with a 13-year-old is just deplorable”.
“The law says anyone below 16 cannot consent to having sex. Men must understand that at that particular age, whether you say the child ‘agreed’ or not, it’s still rape. And you must be charged as a rapist.
“We are going to push. Half the time, the people who impregnate girls below 16 are way older than them. They’re in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. They sometimes infect them with diseases. And we think that must come to an end, because it means we are breeding a culture of people who are going to be rapists.”
By afternoon on Christmas Day, 81 babies had been born in the province since midnight.
In the Western Cape, 91 babies had been born by 2pm – 66 boys and 25 girls.
The first, a girl, was born at 12.09am at Tygerberg Hospital and weighed 3kg.
New Somerset Hospital has been the busiest since midnight with seven births, followed by Mowbray Maternity Hospital at six and Tygerberg Hospital, George Hospital, Paarl Hospital, Khayelitsha District Hospital and Hanover Park Community Health Centre with five births each, the provincial health department confirmed.
Gauteng public health facilities delivered 168 babies between midnight and midday.
Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku visited newborns and their mothers at Tambo Memorial Hospital in Boksburg bearing Christmas gifts.
In the Free State, Baby Olerato Unathi Christina was born to Malefa Dolo in Bloemfontein at midnight.
Weighing 3.2kg, she was one of 41 babies born on Christmas – 18 girls and 23 boys.