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Fury as Minister asks schoolgirls to “open your books, close your legs”

Online fury has met a remark by a South African Minister jocularly delivered to encourage abstinence and reduce teenage pregnancy rates.

On a visit to Gwenane Secondary School in Sekgakgapeng on Wednesday, Limpopo province Health Minister Phophi Ramathuba said: “To the girl child I say: Open your books, and close your legs. Don’t open your legs, open your books. Thank you very much.”

Several people were piqued at the remarks. “No thank you,” Lehakwe Lesufi writes on social media. “You don’t advise children by talking them down.”

Another commentator observed that the remark was discriminatory since it was targeting only girls. “It’s as if girls get pregnant by themselves. What about the boys, who are equally responsible?” poses Tinda Bandile.

Minister Clarifies

Later, the health minister clarified that she meant to caution girls against being lured by older men with money [“sponsors”].

She also told TimesLIVE that her statement was  taken out of context: “They were even saying that they were afraid to say these things and thanked me for calling a spade a spade.”

Official government statistics released in November last year show that there were 35,000 teenage mothers in the country in 2020.

Demand for Apology

The Soul City Institute for Social Justice has demanded for an apology from the minister.

The organisation’s CEO Phinah Kodisang describes the advice as “deeply problematic”.

“For them to then shift that responsibility and put it on the young women is something that we are not going to take lightly. I think the MEC must issue an apology,” Kodisang said


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