Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children and Another v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and Another

Case No. Lower Court Judgments Hearing Date Judgment Date Majority Author  Vote
CCT 12/13
North Gauteng High Court, 4 Jan. 2013 30 May. 2013
3 Oct. 2013 Khampepe J Unanimous

This case comes before the Constitutional Court by way of confirmation proceedings in terms of section 172(2) of the Constitution, following the North Gauteng High Court (“NGHC”) per Rabie J having declared sections of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 (“the Act”) to be unconstitutional.

In the NGHC, the applicants challenged the constitutional validity of sections 15 (“Acts of consensual sexual penetration with certain children (statutory rape)”), 16 (“Acts of consensual sexual violation with certain children (statutory sexual assault)”) and 56(2) (dealing with defences in respect of sections 15 and 16 of the Act) (collectively, “the impugned provisions”). The impugned provisions criminalise a wide range of consensual sexual activities involving children aged between 12 and 15 years, including all forms of kissing on the mouth. The applicants did not challenge the impugned provisions insofar as they relate to the sexual conduct of adults; however, to the extent that the impugned provisions criminalise the sexual conduct of children, the applicants argued that they are unconstitutional. This affects the consensual sexual activity of a child aged between 16 and 18 years with a child aged between 12 and 15 years, as well as the consensual sexual activity of two children aged between 12 and 15 years.

The Constitutional Court found that the effect of the sections was not rationally connected to the government purpose of protecting children.  The criminalisation of this behaviour was found to negatively impact children by criminalising developmentally normative conduct by adolescents. The sections violated the affected children’s’ privacy, dignity and was not in children’s best interest as required by the section 28 of the Constitution.

The Court therefore declared the impugned provisions invalid to the extent they criminalise consensual sexual conduct between adolescents. It is important to note that the criminalization of non-consensual conduct with children of any age, and the of sexual conduct between an adult and adolescent remain in place.

The declaration of invalidity was suspended for 18 months to allow Parliamen to rectify the Act, however, a moratorium on criminal investigations and prosecutions in relation to the impugned provisions.  Also, the Court ordered the Minister of Justice ensure that children who had been convicted under the provisions would not be listed on the National Register for Sex Offenders and to have their records expunged.

Download the judgment here.

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