Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) would like to commend The Times for accessing children’s views regarding the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act in an article entitled “Children kiss all the time” (31/05/2013, p.6). The article is deserving of a GLAD1 as it focused on a current topic that affects children and rightly so, accessed their views on the issue.

The article written by Katharine Child gives a holistic view of what the Sexual Offences Act is. The Act which was amended in 2007 “criminalises sex, kissing and foreplay among children in the 12- 16 age group,” a move that was met with criticism from various constituencies, including children’s rights advocates. The informative piece excels in highlighting the different viewpoints that many individuals have on the Act.

The balanced coverage includes the varying perspectives of NGOs that deals with children, the Department of Justice and most importantly children.

Giving children a voice on the matter is vital because they are directly affected by it. In hindsight,The Times also put into practice their Editorial Policy for reporting on children where they endorse the promotion of children’s voices on matters that affect them.2

The interviewed children unequivocally expressed their different opinions on this subject. Aiden, 12, was quoted saying “Children having sex must go to jail because you must be married to have sex”. However, Monique, 16, disagreed with the criminalisation of kissing and sexual intercourse among children. She said “there shouldn’t be a law against it its part of growing up. I’m expressing my love. I will do it anyway, even if there is a law.”

Highlighting children’s views in this manner shows that their opinions are valued and taken into consideration.

MMA congratulates The Times and Katharine Child for the comprehensive coverage and encourages them to keep giving children a voice especially in matters that concern them and affect their lives.

1. On a weekly basis, MMA highlights cases of good practice, where the media has promoted the rights and welfare of children, otherwise referred to as “GLADs”, as well as instances where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage, referred to as “MADs

In response to the commentary, the The Times’ journalist, Katharine Child said:

“My colleague Leonie Wagner interviewed children for the article while I spent the day in the Constitutional Court. This is an example of team work which is necessary as it was not possible to cover the complicated court case and speak to children on the same day and still meet a daily deadline.”