Reporting sexual offences involving child patients: What is the current law following the Constitutional Court judgment?
The Constitutional Court of South Africa has recently invalidated certain sexual offences involving adolescents and placed a moratorium on reporting adolescents who engage in ‘lawful’ sexual activity. In evaluating the constitutionality of the law that criminalises sexual activity between adolescents, the Court recognised how the reporting obligations could exacerbate the violation of children’s constitutional rights. However, in light of the Court’s narrow focus, its judgment only slightly amends the reporting obligations of healthcare providers in terms of adolescent patients, and for the most part the current law remains intact. Despite this judgment, adolescent patients can still be exposed to the negative effects of the reporting obligations placed on healthcare providers, and healthcare providers are still faced with the challenges created by their duty to report sexual offences involving young patients. This article explores the judgment in order to clarify the current law on reporting sexual conduct involving adolescents, and also provides some analysis to assess the implications of the judgment for healthcare providers.