REPROHEALTHLAW Updates – May 2018

May 31, 2018

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[Africa – Kenya]  J O O (also known as J M) v Attorney General & 6 others [2018] Petition No 5 of 2014, (High Court of Kenya at Bungoma).  [obstetric violence – abuse of pregnant women in healthcare system] 
Decision of March 22, 2018.

[Africa – Malawi, vagrancy] Mayeso Gwanda v. the State, Constitutional Case No 5. 2015  (High Court of Malawi. [successful human rights challenge involving an itinerant male vendor] Decision of January 10, 2017
— This decision cites the unreported case of Stella Mwanza and 12 Others v. Republic, Confirmation Criminal Case No. 1049 of 2007 (Malawi) [re 13 women arrested on streets after dark] discussed Legal Grounds III: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts  (Pretoria, Pretoria University Law Press (PULP), 2017), p. 127  PDF of book, 228 pages. Online edition

[Mexico] Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, Segunda Sala [Supreme Court] 2018,  Amparo en Revisión 601/2017 (Ciudad de Mexico) April 4, 2018.  [Case of “Marimar”- raped minor should not have been denied abortion by hospital]   Decision in Spanish.   News report in English.

[Mexico] Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, Segunda Sala [Supreme Court] 2018,  Amparo en Revisión 1170/2017 (Ciudad de Mexico) April 18, 2018.  [Case of Fernanda – public institutions must allow abortions to raped minor]  Decision in Spanish.     Same news report in English.

 “The Impact of Politics on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights,” for publication in Reproductive Health Matters, May 2019.  Submissions due October 31, 2018.
RHM Call for papers


V Latin American Congress on Reproductive Rights, Santa Marta, Colombia, November 1-3, 2018.    Congress website in Spanish.  Latin American Judges and Magistrates of the highest courts will gather to foster the inclusion of a gender perspective in judicial decisions regarding reproductive rights:  Synopsis in English.

Audio-visual resources from previous IV Latin American Conference, held in Lima Peru Nov 2-4, 2015, now published online, include many talks in Spanish, and some in English:
◊   Rebecca Cook, “Gender Stereotypes: Transnational Legal Perspectives,” (Nov. 3, 2015)   Video.     Slides
◊  Marge Berer, “Violence and Reproductive Rights.” (Nov. 3, 2015)  Video
◊   Joanna Erdman, “Violence against Women and Reproductive Rights: Revealing Connections.”  Nov. 2, 2015    Video.     Slides


Abortion Law Decisions online, a Table of Cases with links, recently updated.  English.   Spanish.

[abortion] “The Philippines: New post-abortion care policy” by Melissa Upreti and Jihan Jacob,  International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 141.2 (May 2018): 268-275.  Abstract.     PDF online for 12 months.   Submitted text at SSRN.

“Abortion in Poland: politics, progression and regression,” by Julia Hussein, Jane Cottingham, Wanda Nowicka & Eszter Kismodi,  Reproductive Health Matters 26:52 (May 2018): 14-17.   Editorial online.

[conscience, Human Rights Committee, Ireland]:
“Sir Nigel Rodley’s Insights on the Feminist Transformation of the Right of Conscience,”  by Rebecca Cook,  Human Rights Quarterly 40.2 (May 2018): 255-259.   Abstract and Article.

[conscience, U.S.A.] “Divisions, New and Old — Conscience and Religious Freedom at HHS by Lisa H. Harris, New England Journal of Medicine 478.15 (April 12 2018): 1369-1371.   Article online.

[Ireland] “Conscientious Objection, Harm Reduction and Abortion Care,” by Ruth Fletcher, in: Mary Donnelly and Claire Murray eds.  Ethical and legal debates in Irish healthcare: Confronting complexities Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016, ISBN: 978-0-7190-9946-5, Book details.     Abstract and Chapter online.

[Ireland] “Reproductive justice in Ireland: a feminist analysis of the Neary and Halappanavar cases” by Joan McCarthy, in: Mary Donnelly and Claire Murray eds.  Ethical and legal debates in Irish healthcare: Confronting complexities Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016, ISBN: 978-0-7190-9946-5, Book details.   Abstract of Chapter.

[Ireland – medical abortion] “Empowerment and Privacy? Home Use of Abortion Pills in the Republic of Ireland,” by Sally Sheldon, Journal of Women in Culture and Society 43.4(Summer 2018): 823-849.   Abstract and Article.

[Malawi] “Adolescent sex and ‘defilement’ in Malawi law and society,” by Godfrey D. Kangaude 17 (2017) African Human Rights Law Journal 527-549.    Article online.   Abstract with other African resources.

[medical abortion]  “Medical abortion pills have the potential to change everything about abortion,” introduction by  Marge Berer and Lesley Hoggart to special issue of Contraception 97.2 (Feb 2018″ 79–81.  Sections on medical abortion potential, women’s experiences, pharmacy provision, role of health system and providers, and research agenda.   Table of Contents, Medical Abortion special issue.

[Uruguay, human rights]  “Legal barriers to access abortion services through a human rights lens: the Uruguayan experience,” by Lucía Berro Pizzarossa, Reproductive Health Matters 26.52 (2018): 1-8    Abstract and article.

US-focused news, resources, and legal developments are available  on Repro Rights Prof Blog.   View or subscribe.


German doctor will appeal 6000-euro fine for “advertising” abortions among other medical specialties on her website.  Comment by Stephanie Schlitt, “Criminal prohibition of abortion ‘advertising’ restricts information provision,” Brief comment.  Detailed comment.

Ireland:  May 25th 2018 Referendum voted to repeal article 40.3.3 “the eighth amendment” which had enshrined a ban on abortion.” Law reform expected.  Christina Zampas editorial in Irish Examiner: “Yes Vote would give hope to millions. . . “.     Irish Times newspaper analyzes results.


Links to employers in the field of Reproductive and Sexual Health Law are online here

Compiled by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here. TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.

Adolescent sex and “defilement” in Malawi law and society

May 31, 2018

Congratulations to Godfrey Dalitso Kangaude,  an LL.D. (doctoral) Candidate in the University of Pretoria’s Department of Private Law, who recently published his article on this challenging topic.  We are pleased to circulating this abstract.

GD Kangaude “Adolescent sex and ‘defilement’ in Malawi law and society” (2017) 17 African Human Rights Law Journal 527-549.  DOI link.    Article online

Abstract:  During colonisation, Malawi received a Western penal code, which included the “defilement” provision, restricting males from sexually accessing girls below a specified age. Countries that maintain colonial age of consent provisions, including Malawi, have uncritically assumed that these laws serve the purpose of protecting girls and children from harm. This article examines the fundamental assumptions underlying the development of sections 138 and 160B of the Malawian Penal Code, and their historical and sociocultural origins.  This article suggests that these provisions serve the interests of adults and not those of children. They are inherently heterosexist, promote gender-stereotypical meanings of sexuality and potentially stigmatise the normative development of sexuality in children. Sections 138 and 160B need to be reviewed and
aligned with Malawi’s commitments to promote gender equality and sexual health and the rights of children.

Key words: childhood sexuality; child rights; Gender Equality Act, age of consent, Malawi Penal Code.

See also:
–A controversial decision from Kenya
Martin C.   v. Republic, Criminal Appeal No. 32 of 2015, April 26, 2016 (High Court of Kenya, at Malindi).  [Court held that the sexual relationship between adult man of 23 and girl of 14 is not “defilement” because she sought it.  Prisoner released.]  Decision online.

Godfrey Kangaude, “Adolescent Consensual Conduct,” and African case summaries in chapter 2 (“Children and Adolescents”) of:
Legal Grounds III: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts
, ed. Godfrey D. Kangaude (Pretoria: PULP, 2017) 228 pages.
Flyer with Table of Contents.     Entire book online

Posted by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here. TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.

Body Politics: Criminalization of sexuality and reproduction – Amnesty’s new primer

March 30, 2018

Congratulations to Amnesty International’s Criminalization of Sexuality and Reproduction Project Team for this useful new reference book:

Body Politics: Criminalization of sexuality and reproduction. (London: Amnesty International, 2018) 220 pages.  PDF online.

This book “aims to motivate and equip the organization’s global movement to challenge unjust criminalization of sexuality and reproduction in local, national, regional and international contexts.”  It is part of an Amnesty International series, which includes this Primer, a Toolkit and a forthcoming Training Manual (see links below).
As noted in the Introduction, “This Primer gives an overview of sexual and reproductive rights that states must respect, protect and fulfil and how states punish and prevent people from exercising these rights. . . . [It] looks at these issues from a human rights perspective, in particular through the lens of “bodily autonomy” – the entitlement to decide what we do with our bodies, what we allow, desire and/or forbid others to do with our bodies, and to make essential decisions about our bodies. The Primer includes discussion of seven issue areas where overreaching laws and policies criminalize sexual and reproductive actions, decisions and gender expression thereby violating our bodily autonomy and denying us our dignity and human rights.” (p.19)  The seven focus issues are:   Criminalizing pregnancy, abortion, adolescent sexual activity, same-sex sexual activity, sex outside marriage and sex work, as well as HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission. The book also contains a useful glossary.
As Anand Grover comments: “Amnesty International’s Primer and Toolkit – Body Politics: Criminalization of sexuality and reproduction – is a timely, meaningful and welcome contribution that can enable activists to both comprehend and challenge illegitimate criminalization of sexuality and reproductive decisions. It is vital to understand the extent to which criminalization has permeated states today and the damage which is done by such measures masquerading as legitimate public health or public morality initiatives. This Primer details the major areas of concern and the harm which both direct and indirect criminalization inflict on an individual’s human rights and the health of society as a whole. It is not enough, however, to simply understand the problem of criminalization of sexuality and reproductive decisions; steps must also be taken to challenge it. The Toolkit provides concrete campaigning techniques such as mapping stakeholder participation and power, identifying advocacy targets, and building capacity. The [forthcoming] Training Manual can be used to build understanding and capacity around these issues for a range of audiences and activists.”  (p. 9, our emphases)

Body Politics: Criminalization of sexuality and reproduction”
220-page Primer
See also:  Toolkit:  38-page PDF
Rationale for this Amnesty International’s campaign  is explained here.

“El tratamiento de las narrativas del sufrimiento inocente en el litigio transnacional del aborto,” por Lisa Kelly

December 20, 2017
 [“Narratives of Innocent Suffering in Transnational Abortion Litigation”]

Los  capítulos  de  la  cuarta  parte  El aborto en el derecho transnacional: Casos y controversias se focaliza en las “Narrativas y significado social.” En este parte del libro, los capítulos de Lisa Kelly, Alejandro Madrazo y Rebecca Cook identifican las  narrativas  recurrentes  que surgen en los debates jurídicos sobre el aborto. Exploran el significado de las narrativas producto de las leyes, los litigios y el lenguaje sobre el aborto, así como el sentido social que éstas conllevan. Los autores nos alientan a considerar las consecuencias de las historias que se relatan mediante los litigios sobre el aborto, y los significados sociales que expresan respecto de las mujeres,  su  sexualidad,  sus  embarazos,  y  lo  que  estas  implicaciones  pueden presagiar para las estrategias jurídicas. Entender las narrativas más amplias dentro  de  las  cuales  se  ubican  los  argumentos  jurídicos  presenta  oportunidades para repensar las estrategias tradicionales y reimaginar nuevas estrategias.

Lisa Kelly, “El tratamiento de las narrativas del sufrimiento inocente en el litigio transnacional del aborto” El aborto en el derecho transnacional: Casos y controversias, editoras/es  Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman, y Bernard M. Dickens (FCE/CIDE, 2016) págs. 383-414.  en españolen inglés.

En el decimo cuarto capitulo del libro, Lisa Kelly estudia las narrativas de la adolescencia y la sexualidad en los litigios contemporáneos transnacionales sobre el aborto en América Latina.  La autora señala una idea recurrente en estos casos que invoca la inocencia sexual, la violación y la beneficencia parental como fundamento del aborto legal que, en caso de ser denegado, señala al Estado como el antagonista vergonzoso. Sin embargo, Kelly nos advierte que, con estas aperturas jurídicas y discursivas, los defensores de los derechos reproductivos se enfrentan a un dilema. La narración empática de casos de niñas violadas corre el riesgo de reforzar la idea del merecimiento en las normativas de aborto.   Al movilizar el poder cultural y jurídico de la familia, los defensores del derecho al aborto pueden conferir mayores derechos a los padres, lo que les permitirá actuar en contra de los deseos e intereses de sus hijas menores de edad. Si se utiliza el sufrimiento y la vulnerabilidad de la juventud como tropos, los defensores del aborto corren el riesgo de reforzar los discursos proteccionistas que restringen el acceso de las adolescentes a los servicios legales que ellas quieren.

Este capítulo está dividido en dos secciones. En la primera sección, la Prof. Kelly describe la génesis de estos casos en América Latina, analizando algunas de las opciones estratégicas y tácticas de los defensores, haciendo un seguimiento de la trayectoria de los casos ante los organismos internacionales de derechos humanos y considerando su contribución a la jurisprudencia internacional sobre los derechos del aborto. En la segunda sección Lisa Kelly analiza una serie de narrativas acerca del “sufrimiento del inocente” que fueron parte de litigios contemporáneos del aborto, al dividir la narrativa en sus partes constituyentes e interpretar cada una de ellas de acuerdo con su significado integral. Finalmente, la autora evalua los costos y beneficios de este tipo de litigios, en particular para las jóvenes, protagonistas de gran parte de estos casos.

 El aborto en el derecho transnacional: casos y controversias:  en español    en inglés.      Sumario y Índice General
Descargar: Reseña del libro en Andamios, por Diego Garcia Ricci      
Introducción y Prólogo. 

Otros capitulos de la cuarta parte del libro:
—Alejandro Madrazo, “Narrativas sobre la personalidad jurídica prenatal en la regulación del aborto,” págs. 415-437  Resumen.

—Rebecca Cook, “Significados estigmatizados del derecho penal sobre el aborto,” págs. 438-467  Resumen.

Tabla de Casos/Jurisprudencia sobre aborto, con enlaces a muchas de las decisiones judiciales

Other Program Resources about Adolescents are online here.

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Brazil: Conservative mobilization and adolescent pregnancy in Latin America

November 30, 2017

Many thanks to scholars  Camila Gianella, Marta R. de Assis Machado, and Angélica Peñas Defago, for sharing their research with readers of the Reprohealthlaw Blog.

On September 27, 2017, the Brazilian Supreme Court – in a 6 to 5 judgmentdecided that public schools can have “confessional” (Catholic) religious teaching in their curriculum. The constitutional case had been proposed by the Attorney General, who argued that current practice – that privileges Roman Catholic indoctrination – would violate the separation between Church and State as well as religious freedom. Although the judgment brings severe consequences to education rights in Brazil, it is only one example of the recent battles by conservative religious groups to influence Brazilian public education. The Catholic church has a long history of interference in Roman Catholic countries, aiming to block comprehensive sex education in schools. More recently, other churches and conservative groups have adopted similar strategies to influence educational policies in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America.

In 2011, a school booklet advocating “Schools without Homophobia,” prepared by the Brazilian Ministry of Education, was recalled after strong pressure from conservative movements, evangelical and Catholic leaders. It was denounced as an instrument to promote homosexuality among children and to destroy families. In 2014, the debate over Brazil’s National Education Plan was the battlefield of conservative and religious groups against what they called “gender ideology”.  Supported by civil society mobilization,  including a organization (ironically) called Escola sem Partido [Schools without Politics] conservative members of congress overruled a clause in the Brazilian National Education Plan that stated, among the goals of the public educational system, overcoming educational inequalities, with emphasis in the promotion of equality among races, regions, genders and sexual orientations. Vocal critics of anti-discriminatory public policies in education also applied political pressure during the discussion and passing of state and municipal education plans.

Brazil is only one example of a new wave of conservative mobilization that is sweeping Latin America, characterized by the gathering of powerful old economic elites and religious conservative groups.  Among its central political strategies, this new wave fights against the inclusion of a gender equality approach in public policies, including school curricula among their principal battlegrounds.   Across the region, this movement has won many major disputes with significant impact.  They have succeeded on blocking gender approaches and comprehensive sexual education not only in Brazil, but in the Argentinian provinces of Mendoza and Entre Rios, in Monterrey (Mexico), Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and even in the most secular country in the region, Uruguay.

As our forthcoming letter to the Editor of The Lancet (2017) explains, this new wave of conservative mobilization has tangible health effects. By opposing sexual education in the schools as well as the introduction of a gender equality approach within the school curricula, they hinder a core element of public health strategies to empower girls and adolescents, and consequently to prevent teenage pregnancies, which have a devastating negative impact on women, by, for example, contributing to female poverty.

Latin America is already the only region in the world where adolescent pregnancies are not decreasing.  A recent analysis of global health progress, published by The Lancet, has shown that if the current trends continue, Latin American countries will not be able to reach their Sustainable Development Goals for reduction of teen pregnancy.  The adolescent fertility rate in Latin America (73.2 per 1000) is very high when compared with the worldwide rate of 48.9 and even the rate in developing countries (52.7).

The new wave of conservative mobilization in Latin America aggravates this situation and must therefore be taken seriously by those interested in preventing and reducing female poverty, and promoting gender equality not only in Latin America, but worldwide.  If there is something to be learned from Latin America, it is that the battle against gender equality can be strategically used by political groups aiming to gain or retain political power.   In this scenario, public health advocates must shift the discussion to public policies rather that moral battles, and urge governments to implement measures to empower women of all ages and grant girls and adolescents reproductive autonomy, which includes access to information through public education.

About the authors: 
Camila Gianella, M.Sc, Ph,H. has worked as researcher and consultant for projects on sexual and reproductive rights, the right to health, tuberculosis, mental health and transitional justice. She has been a counselor in HIV and Tuberculosis services, and also worked with asylum seekers.   She now works as a researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Bergen, Norway,

Marta Rodriguez de Assis Machado has Master’s (2004) and PhD (2007) degrees  in Philosophy and Theory of Law at University of Sao Paulo.  Since 2007, she has served as full time professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation Law School in Sao Paulo, researcher at the Brazilian Center of Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP); and global fellow at the Centre on Law & Social Transformation (CMI) at the University of Bergen, Norway.

María Angélica Peñas Defago obtained her PhD in Law and Social Sciences at the National University of Cordoba (UNC), Argentina, where he is now Assistant Professor of Legal Sociology, and a  Researcher and Professor in the Sexual and Reproductive Rights Program, School of Law, UNC, Post-doctoral Fellow of the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research, Argentina (CONICET / CIJS-UNC).
Related resources: 
Maria Jose Rivas Vera, “Sexuality Education in Paraguay: Using Human Rights and International Policies to Define Adolescents’ Right to Sexuality Education” (LL.M. thesis, University of Toronto, 2015) thesis online.   

Julieta Lemaitre, “Catholic Constitutionalism on Sex, Women, and the Beginning of Life,” Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies ed. Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman, and Bernard M. Dickens (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) pp 239-257, notes pp. 430-434. Abstract in English.   Resumen en espanolLibro en español.


Compiled by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here. TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.


AFRICA: Legal Grounds III: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts – 54 case summaries

February 14, 2017


by: Godfrey Kangaude, Onyema Afulukwe, Guy-Fleury Ntwari, et al.
Foreword by Prof. Charles G. Ngwena
PULP (Pretoria University Law Press) 2017
Download entire 228 page book online.
Online edition with links to decisions
Printable flyer with Table of Contents
Previous volumes

Reproductive and sexual rights, which are guaranteed in constitutions and in international and regional human rights treaties, have no impact if they are not recognized and enforced by national-level courts. Legal Grounds: Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts Volume III continues to provide much-needed information about whether and how national courts of African countries apply constitutional and human rights to protect reproductive and sexual rights. The case summaries, significance sections, and thematic highlights serve as useful resources for those seeking to further develop litigation, advocacy, and capacity- building strategies.

Like its predecessors, Legal Grounds: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts – Volume III is a tool for organizations, individuals, and institutions of learning. The scope of this third volume has been widened beyond Commonwealth African countries to include cases from Francophone countries, while focusing more exclusively on court decisions related to reproductive and sexual health. This compelling publication contributes towards a knowledge base of court decisions that bear directly or indirectly on the exercise of reproductive and sexual health as constitutional and human rights in Africa.
228 page book onlinePrevious volumes Printable flyer with Table of Contents.

Foreword, Introduction, Acknowledgments
Children and Adolescents
—Child, Forced and Early Marriage
—Female Genital Mutilation legal-grounds/
—Sexual Abuse, Assault and Violence
—Consensual Sexual Conduct
—Student Pregnancy
—Maternal Health Care and Services
Abortion and Fetal Interests
—Wrongful Birth or Life
Adoption and Surrogacy
Gender, Sexuality, Women and Discrimination
—Disability, Sexuality and Criminal Law
—Women and Criminal Law
—Legal Recognition of Intersexuality
—Gender Identity
—Sexual Orientation
—Recognition of LGBTIQ Advocacy and Groups
—Access to Treatment
—Criminalisation of Transmission
—Forced Sterilization
—Discrimination in Employment
Francophone Africa / L’Afrique Francophone
—Adultery, Polygamy, Infanticide
Appendices – Table of Cases, Online Resources, Endnotes

Child Marriage: Legal and Socio-Cultural Aspects, by Godfrey Kangaude
Adolescent Consensual Sexual Conduct, by Godfrey Kangaude
Sexual Abuse, Assault and Violence, by Victoria Balogun
Maternal Health Care and Services, by Tinyade Kachika
Abortion and Fetal Interests, by Onyema Afulukwe
Adoption and Surrogacy, by Ronaldah Lerato Karabo Ozah
Gender, Sexuality, Women and Discrimination, by MaryFrances Lukera
Criminalisation of HIV Non-Disclosure, Exposure and Transmission, by Jacinta Nyachae
Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women Living with HIV, by Ebenezer Durojaye
Towards Respect for Human Diversity, by Godfrey Kangaude

COUNTRIES:  Benin, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda,  Zambia, Zimbabwe

228 page book online.  Previous volumes.
Printable flyer with Table of Contents.

South Africa: Decriminalization of adolescent consensual sex

April 21, 2016

Many thanks to Godfrey Kangaude, LL.M. (UFS), LL.M. (UCLA), Executive Director of the Malawi Law Society and Co-Director of Nyale Institute for Sexual and Reproductive Health Governance, and Phiwo Nyobo, an LL.M. candidate in Sexual and Reproductive Rights in the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, for collaborating on a new African case summary for our forthcoming publication, Legal Grounds III: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts.  

In the first Teddy Bear case of 2013,  a South African High Court proposed decriminalization of adolescent consensual sexual conduct.[1]   Later that year, the Constitutional Court suspended all laws criminalizing adolescent consensual sexual conduct, pending review by Parliament.  As Kangaude notes, this South African decision is “revolutionary because it affirmed adolescents as sexual beings who may engage in consensual sexual conduct, and that this was in certain circumstances normal and even critical for normal and healthy development.” ([2] p.5)

On July 7, 2015, the South African government duly amended its Criminal Law, decriminalizing consensual adolescent sexuality.[3]  The Amendment was welcomed by advocacy groups [4]  and legal specialists.[5]

“South Africa arrived at the Teddy Bear decision using its Constitution and domestic laws. Some African countries [6] [7] still cling to criminal laws that treat consensual sex between adolescents as problematic.  Invariably, this creates conditions that perpetuate the thinking that consensual sexual behaviour amongst adolescents is always harmful. Yet girls and boys still engage in some form of sexual conduct. Since the norms and laws prevent them from getting the necessary support, such as sexual and reproductive health information and services, the consequences include . . . unwanted pregnancy, STIs and unsafe abortions…” ([2] p.5)

The African Commission’s General Comment on Article 14 (1) (d) and (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, oblige states to realize wide ranging human rights, not only for adults, but also for adolescents. As Kangaude concludes, “It is only by respecting the rights of the adolescent in matters regarding sexuality that a society will tend towards achieving better sexual and reproductive health, not only for adolescents but for everyone.” ([2] p.6]


[1] Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children and Another v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and Another, Case No. 73300/10 [2013] ZAGPPHC 1 (North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria).  High Court decisionCase summary by Godfrey Kangaude and Phiwo Nyobo, 2015.

[2] Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children and Another v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and Another (CCT 12/13) [2013] ZACC 35;  (South Africa: Constitutional Court).   Constitutional Court decision.  Case summary by Godfrey Kangaude and Phiwo Nyobo, 2015.

[3] Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 5 of 2015 – Government Notice 593 in Government Gazette 38977 dated and commenced July 7, 2015. Amendment Act 5.   Entire Act.

[4] “Towards healthy adolescent sexuality”  by Suhayfa Bhamjee, lecturer in the School of Law at University of Kwazulu-Natal. Legal analysis of draft amendment.

[5] “Revised adolescent sex bill welcomed by Advocacy groups.”  News report.

[6] In our second case summary, p. 5, Kangaude discusses Uganda’s anti-defilement law, which criminalises consensual sex with girls under 18, citing SA Parikh, “‘They arrested me for loving a schoolgirl’: Ethnography, HIV, and a feminist assessmentof the age of consent law as a gender-based structural intervention in Uganda’” (2012) 74 Social Science and Medicine 1774-1782.

[7] For another negative contrast, see the Kenyan decision C.K.W. v. Attorney General & Another [2014] eKLR, Petition 6 of 2013 (High Court of Kenya at Eldoret), which not only upheld criminalisation of adolescent consensual sex, but ignored gender bias in the law.  Decision online.   Case summary by Godfrey Kangaude and Mobby Rusere.

[8] For further discussion of the legal, ethical and reproductive health issues , see Godfrey Kangaude, “Enhancing the Role of Health Professionals in the Advancement of Adolescent Sexual Health and Rights in Africa” (2016). International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 132 (2016) 105-108.  Abstract and Article.