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The Facts on Teenage Pregnancy in South Africa


As with many developing countries, the rate of teenage pregnancy in South Africa is high. Most people argue that this is a substantial problem for the country, and is an expression of a failure to help young girls deal with sexuality. This failure leads to not only pregnancies and abortions, but also to STDs and HIV and AIDS; many believe that adolescents in South Africa are in desperate need of adequate sex education and confidential contraceptive services.

There are many factors behind teenage pregnancy in South Africa. Often, adequate knowledge of contraception is lacking, due to negative attitudes regarding sexual activity before marriage. Young girls are not educated about contraceptive use because many believe there is no need to educate them; they must wait until they are married to have sex anyway.

Teenage pregnancy in South Africa is mainly a problem among women who live in rural, poverty-stricken areas; South Africa’s urban female adolescents, however, are also at a high risk of finding themselves pregnant at an early age. These urban girls have become addicted to drugs, alcohol, and expensive lifestyles; to ensure that they have the money for their desires, they sadly stumble onto the path of prostitution and often become pregnant and drop out of school.

Unfortunately, there are a number of myths, the most prominent being that sleeping with a virgin will cure HIV-AIDS, that actually promote the rape of young women. In many cases, these victims are left pregnant. Education regarding these myths and other issues relating to teenage pregnancy in South Africa are believed to be fundamental in dealing with the problem of adolescent pregnancy. Many education programs, however, are controversial, as is the practice of forcing a young girl who is visibly pregnant to drop out of school; furthermore, a consensus has not been reached as to what degree tradition should play in educating young girls.

One controversial practice that may be impacting teenage pregnancy in South Africa is that of virginity testing in rural KwaZulu-Natal, where girls on average between the ages of 7 and 26 allow a stranger to check if their hymens are intact. The girls are overjoyed when the test confirms they are virgins. People supporting this practice say that it is an effective tool in stopping the spread of teenage pregnancies and HIV, while opponents claim that the practice is unconstitutional, unhygienic and a violation of human rights. Advocates of the practice also agree that virginity testing is unhygienic at the moment, as the tester touches up to 600 girls a day, often with bare hands and without washing hands between girls; however, advocates claim that if the government supported the practice, there would be funding to purchase gloves, food, and areas where girls could be tested in private. Furthermore, many supporters of the practice argue that in a country where rape of young girls is prevalent, virginity testing is proving to be a useful method of uncovering sexual abuse on young girls who fear speaking out about it.

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