South Africa’s Limpopo health minister is under backlash for her sex education message to girls during a visit to Gwenane secondary school in the township of Sekgakgapeng on Wednesday to mark the first day of the new academic year.
“Open your books and close your legs”, Phophi Ramathuba made the comment in a bid to encourage abstinence to prevent HIV/Aids infections and reduce teenage pregnancy rates.
She added that girls were being lured by older men using luxuries like expensive wigs and smart phones.
Her message has however been called out for putting the burden of sexual responsibility on girls only, as many people online said it was the responsibility of boys and men to stop preying on girls.
Opposition politician Siviwe Gwarube called the remarks “deeply problematic”.
“This was an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with these learners about consent… Instead you victim blame. Place undue pressure on girls”, she said in a message on Twitter.
Ramathuba defended the message, which she said was aimed at boys too.
“I told the boys to focus on their education and not sleep with girls,” she said.
She added that her constituents in Limpopo “appreciated the message”.
“They were even saying that they were afraid to say these things and thanked me for calling a spade a spade,” she said.
Almost 33,400 girls under the age of 17 gave birth in South Africa in 2020.
Save the Children said a lack of access to comprehensive sex education as well as affordable and appropriate health services are key factors contributing to teen pregnancies in South Africa.