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Facilitating access to adolescent sexual and reproductive health services through legislative reform: Lessons from the South African experience

A Strode
Z Essack


South Africa (SA) has progressive legislation enabling adolescents to access various sexual- and reproductive-health services (SRH) independently, without consent from parents or legal guardians. This article reviews the SA legislative framework for adolescent access to SRH interventions. It outlines the five approaches adopted in current legislation to address adolescents’ capacity to independently consent to specified health interventions, based on age, capacity and public policy requirements, or combinations thereof. Rather than subsume various health interventions under the umbrella of medical treatment, SA has separately legislated on many SRH interventions (e.g. HIV testing, contraceptives and terminations of pregnancy, among others). We identify strengths and weaknesses of the SA approach, and conclude with lessons learned from the SA experience which could inform discussion and debate on the most appropriate ways for countries to consider law reform that facilitates adolescent access to SRH services.