Birth Registration: The law provides for citizenship by birth (if at least one parent is a permanent resident or citizen), descent, and naturalization. Nevertheless, registration of births was inconsistent, especially in remote rural areas or among parents who were unregistered foreign nationals. Children without birth registration had no access to public services such as education, health care, and financial grants.
Education: Public education is compulsory until age 15 or grade nine. Public education was fee-based and not fully subsidized by the government. The law provides that children cannot be refused admission to public schools due to a lack of funds, and disadvantaged children (who traditionally were black) were eligible for assistance. Nevertheless, even when children qualified for fee exemptions, parents who were poor had difficulty paying for uniforms and supplies. According to the 2012 Child Gauge Report, girls faced more difficulties than boys in accessing services, and children with disabilities were at an even greater disadvantage.
Child Abuse: Violence against children, including domestic violence and sexual abuse, remained widespread. According to the 2012-13 SAPS report, 49,550 children were reported to have been victims of violent crime during the reporting period. The country had a low conviction rate for rape and child abuse.
There continued to be reports that teachers, students, and others harassed, abused, assaulted, and raped girls in school. The law requires schools to disclose sexual abuse to authorities, but administrators often concealed sexual violence or delayed disciplinary action. The level of sexual violence in schools also increased the risk of girls contracting HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as unwanted pregnancies.
For example, on February 22, at Mzwilili Junior Primary School in Umlazi, eight-year-old Nonjabulo Sabela went missing. On February 28, her body was found in the school with eyes gouged out and evidence of rape. Police arrested a 24-year-old man, who awaited trial at year’s end.
On March 1, a staff member at Isithokoziso Junior Primary school reportedly raped a four-year-old girl. Police made an arrest after the child pointed out the attacker, but prosecutors did not file charges due to lack of evidence.
Although the law prohibits corporal punishment in schools, there were reports that teachers used physical violence to discipline students.
Student‑on‑student violence, including racially motivated violence, was a problem.
Forced and Early Marriage: The age of majority is 18. Anyone under that age could not marry without the consent of the parents or a magistrate judge. Nevertheless, the traditional practice of “ukuthwala,” the forced marriage of girls as young as 12 to adult men, continued in remote villages in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces. In August, President Zuma signed the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, which prohibits nonconsensual ukuthwala and classifies it as a trafficking offense. Significantly, the Ministry of Traditional Practices supported the bill.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Although not widespread, FGM/C was reported in isolated zones in Venda communities of the northeastern part of the country. The law prohibits FGM/C, and the government conducted initiatives to eradicate the practice, including national research and sensitization workshops where FGM/C is prevalent.
Ritual (“muthi”) killings, especially of children, to obtain body parts believed by some to enhance traditional medicine, persisted.
On February 13, Stanley Modikane killed and beheaded his wife, Phumeza Madikane, at their home in Daveyton, Ekurhuleni. Modikane was arrested after telling police he had killed his wife to use her head for a muthi that would make him rich. Modikane was charged with murder, and his trial at the Benoni Magistrate’s Court continued at year’s end.
The trials of Songezo Mpitolo, Langa Mbijana, and Phumelele Nodede, who were arrested in January 2012 for the rape and murder of six-year-old Asemahle Ntsabo in Paarl, Western Cape Province, continued at year’s end. The prosecution alleged that Ntsabo was killed and her organs removed for muthi.
Four of the five suspects arrested for the 2011 rape and muthi killing of 74-year-old Maria Maceke Maceke were found not guilty and discharged during the year. The fifth suspect, Solomon Mzamani Mathebula, was sentenced to life imprisonment in September 2012.
Ritual circumcision of young males, often by medically unqualified practitioners, was still a prevalent initiation tradition in several provinces, particularly in Eastern Cape Province. The government regulates initiation schools, but unlicensed schools operated throughout the country for financial gain. In the worst cases, these schools enticed or kidnapped boys to undertake rites of passage and then held them for ransom until their parents paid for their release.
The practice sometimes resulted in death. An entrenched practice among several cultural groups in the country, circumcision was considered a precondition for adult status and permits marriage, inheritance, and other societal privileges. The House of Traditional Leaders began a dialogue with medical providers to identify options for the integration of medical circumcision and traditional practices. The government also began funding a program to conduct medical circumcisions nationwide during the year, but traditional practices continued. Discussing circumcision was taboo in many communities, where it was considered a matter for chiefs to decide. Some traditional leaders criticized government interference in initiation and circumcision practices, while others declared moratoriums on circumcision in parts of Eastern Cape Province after numerous deaths resulted from the practice.
Hospitalizations and penile amputations at the hands of untrained practitioners were reported in Eastern Cape, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga Provinces during the June initiation period, according to press reports. According to media reports, approximately 90 deaths resulted from circumcisions performed at initiation schools--facilities where traditional rituals were performed on boys to mark their passage into adulthood--in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga Provinces, compared with 64 deaths during the initiation season in 2012. The media also reported five amputations and 300 hospitalizations in the Eastern Cape during the year.
In December 2012 personnel at an illegal initiation school in Hartswater, Northern Cape Province, stoned to death a 22-year-old female student at the initiation school. School personnel initially tortured Gabaediwe Motsage with burning coals before killing her when she tried to escape from the school. During the year four women, a man, and nine minors were arrested and charged with murder and assault. Three of the adults were granted bail, two were denied bail, and the children were released. In response to the incident, the district attorney submitted a proposal to the Office of the Premier and Health Department for a new provincial approach to initiation schools. The trial continued at year’s end.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Penalties for the sexual exploitation of a child include fines and imprisonment of up to 20 years. The law states no child under age 12 can consent to any sexual activity and sets 16 as the lowest age for consensual sex with another minor. Statutory rape is defined as sexual intercourse between anyone under 18 and an adult more than two years older. The statutory sentence for rape of a child is life in prison, although the law grants judicial discretion to issue sentences that are more lenient.
The law criminalizes all consensual sexual activities between minors under the age of 16 and defines sexual activities to include kissing and “petting.” In May the Constitutional Court heard complaints by child-rights advocacy groups, which claimed the law could prevent pregnant teens from seeking appropriate medical attention for fear of being criminally charged. The groups noted that the law effectively contradicts previous legislation requiring the government to provide free contraceptives to minors. The groups also asserted the law could deter child victims of sexual assault from reporting attacks perpetrated by other minors since, in the event of an acquittal, the victim would technically be considered a criminal for having underage sex. The Constitutional Court’s decision was pending at year’s end.
The law prohibits child pornography and provides for penalties including fines and imprisonment of up to 10 years. The FPB maintained a website and a toll-free hotline for the public to report incidents of child pornography.
In 2011 approximately 95,000 children (0.5 percent of all children) lived in child-headed households, according to Statistics South Africa’s Social Profile of Vulnerable Groups in South Africa. These children sometimes turned to prostitution to support themselves and their siblings. Other children were trafficked and forced into prostitution. NGOs provided shelter, medical, and legal assistance for children in prostitution and a hotline for victims of child abuse.
Children were trafficked mainly within the country, from poor rural areas to urban centers, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and Bloemfontein, for prostitution. Nigerian syndicates dominated the commercial sex trade within the country through local criminal rings and street gangs that organized child prostitution in those cities.
Some NGOs claimed the country was a destination for child sex tourism. The Departments of Tourism, Social Development, and Trade and Industry, as well as 50 other tourism industry organizations, were signatories to the Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct, an international agreement endorsed by the UN World Tourism Organization designed to provide “increased protection to children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.”
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For country-specific information, see the Department of State’s report at www.travel.state.gov/abduction/country/country_5783.html.