Statutory rape: know the facts
Before having sex with someone, you need to make sure that you are legally allowed to do so. The legal age of consent in South Africa is 16, and if someone who is younger than 16 has sex with their older partner, their partner is committing statutory rape (even if they agreed to have sex). Here are all the facts about statutory rape.
People under 16 cannot consent to sex
Even if you are in a relationship with someone who is 16 or older, it is considered statutory rape if you are under the age of 16. That’s why it’s important to be honest about your age, Choma, so that the person you are getting into a relationship with knows what they are dealing with. This law is meant to protect minors from older people who may be predatory and want to take advantage of them. There are serious consequences (jail time) for people who commit statutory rape.
What happens if you are both younger than 16?
If you and your partner are both younger than 16 (between 12 and 15 years old), then it’s not considered statutory rape if you have sex; as long as you both consent to it. According to the National Policy Guidelines for Victims of Sexual Offences, girls younger than 12 cannot consent to sex, which means that any sexual act committed with someone at this age (12 years and younger) is considered rape. This means that even if a teenager between 13 and 15 has sex with someone who is younger than 12 years old, they can be charged with statutory rape.
Can parents report statutory rape?
Even if someone has lied to their partner about their age (if they have claimed that they are over 16), their parents or anyone else who is aware of them having sex with someone who is older (over 16) is required by law, to report this crime. Depending on the age of the underage person (if they are over or under 12), the perpetrator may be charged with between 8 and 12 years of imprisonment. This can happen even if the victim (underaged person) agreed to have sex.
There’s no time limit on reporting cases of sexual assault and rape, which means that you can report an incident of statutory rape months or even years after it has occurred; as long as you can prove that the victim was underaged.
If the perpetrator says that the victim lied about their age, then they will have to prove (show evidence) this, but they may still be found guilty and charged with jail time.
Rape vs Consent
Sex with someone who has not clearly given their permission is considered rape. If your partner tries to convince, threaten or manipulate you into agreeing to sex, it is considered coercion and this is also sexual assault. Someone who is younger than 16, extremely drunk, high on drugs or unconscious (not awake or able to respond to the environment) cannot consent to sex and having sex with them anyway is rape.
Remember that your partner does not have the right to try and convince or force you to have sex with them. They also do not have the right to remove the condom during sex without your permission or knowledge – this is stealthing and it’s a form of sexual assault that they can go to jail for.
Statutory rape is a serious offense, with serious consequences. Remember, even if they're your partner, they can go to jail if you are under the age of 16 and they are older. It’s still considered taking advantage, and someone who cares about you will know that you are worth the wait and not try to have sex with you. If you or someone you know needs to report a case of statutory rape, you can contact the SAPS on 10111 or go to your nearest police station.
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