Opinion Paper

Sex, lies and disclosures: Researchers and the reporting of under-age sex

Ann Strode, Catherine Slack
Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine | Vol 10, No 2 | a294 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhivmed.v10i2.294 | © 2009 Ann Strode, Catherine Slack | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 December 2009 | Published: 30 July 2009

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Ann Strode, University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Catherine Slack, HIV/AIDS Vaccines Ethics Group, University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

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Children are a vulnerable group and require legal protection due to their youth and inexperience. Resultantly, various provisions in the law ensure the care and protection of children through mechanisms such as the mandatory reporting of abuse. A recent change in the law has broadened the mandatory reporting obligations by requiring any person who is aware of a sexual offence having been committed against a child to report this to the police. Given that it is a sexual offence to have sex below the age of 16 researchers involved in research with teenagers in which they may become aware that that they are engaging in sex or sexual activity but are under the age4 of 16 will be obliged to inform the police of this fact.

The issue of reporting under-age sex is very complex as in our view there are various categories of under-age sex. We argue that researchers should not comply with the mandatory reporting obligations for underage consensual, non-exploitative sexual activity but in all other cases there should be reporting.

We argue that because the mandatory reporting of underage sex/ activity (even consensual and non-exploitative activity) may alienate children from services and “punish” them by reporting their conduct to the police, advocacy is needed for a change to the Sexual Offences Act to ensure consistency with the approach taken in the Children’s Act which enables such children to access sexual and reproductive services..


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Crossref Citations

1. How to learn to love your research ethics committee: recommendations for psychologists
Douglas R Wassenaar, Catherine M Slack
South African Journal of Psychology  vol: 46  issue: 3  first page: 306  year: 2016  
doi: 10.1177/0081246316654348