One in three had sex before 16
One in three South Africans between 16 and 24 years had sex for the first time before their 16th birthday, and about 12% of those made their sexual debut before the age of 14, a survey released in Johannesburg today has found.
The survey, conducted by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPFF) in four African countries including South Africa, confirms what most local sexual and reproductive surveys have found, but also highlights what young people know about sex and from where they get their information.
It showed that about 40% of the 3 809 South Africans between the ages of 16 and 24 years learnt about sex from their friends, 21% from TV and media, 18% at schools and only 4% were educated about it by their families.
Dr Heidi Marriott, senior adviser of organisational learning and evaluation at IPFF, expressed concern about the role played by families in educating young people about sex.
“Schools and parents should be a bigger role than they are right now,” she said.
Annie Varaden, a psychologist from Childline in KwaZulu-Natal, agreed.
“Parents should be the first port of call for sex education to their children. That way we cut out the misinformation that children often receive from friends,” she said.
Varaden went further to say that there is “so much of misconception and myths going around, and it is the duty of parents and schools to dispel them by teaching young people the right thing”.
She acknowledged that many parents believe that if they talk about sex with their kids, they are encouraging them to have sex.
The survey also found that 37% of young people use contraceptives, another 34% said they used them sometimes, 24% said they had never used them and 5% wanted to use them but could not access them.
Marriott said it was worrying that there were so many young people who wanted to use contraceptives but could not access them.
“This is something that IPFF should investigate,” she said.