n Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine - Sex, lies and disclosures : researchers and the reporting of under-age sex : opinion

Volume 10, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1608-9693
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6751



Children (persons under 18) are a vulnerable group and require legal protection because of their youth and inexperience. As a result, various provisions in the law ensure the care and protection of children through mechanisms such as mandatory reporting obligations, which generally require persons in positions of authority, in special relationships with children or even strangers to report to the authorities when a child is in need of care and protection. Within this context, a recent change in the law has placed an obligation on any person who is aware of a sexual offence having been committed against a child to report this to the police in terms of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, hereafter referred to as the 'Sexual Offences Act'. Given that it is an offence in terms of this Act to have sex below the age of 16, researchers involved in research with teenage participants in the course of which they may become aware that participants are engaging in sex or sexual activity but are under the age of 16 will be obliged to inform the police of this fact.

This article describes the changes introduced by the Sexual Offences Act and the implications it poses for the research relationship. It proposes non-compliance with certain provisions in this Act when specific conditions are met, and concludes with recommendations for advocacy against inappropriate and senseless reporting of consensual under-age sex or sexual activity.

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