Minister attacked for advising schoolgirls to open their books, close their legs

The health minister for South Africa’s Limpopo province, Phophi Ramathuba has found herself on the receiving end of backlash following her advice to schoolgirls in her region to open their books and close their legs.

Phophi Ramathuba, health minister for South Africa’s Limpopo province

The minister, a woman herself, gave the advice following statistics which show that almost 33,400 girls under age 17 gave birth in South Africa in 2020, a situation Save the Children reportedly attributes to lack of access to comprehensive sex education, affordable and appropriate health services.

According to the BBC, she advised the learners when she visited Gwenane secondary school in the township of Sekgakgapeng on Wednesday to mark the first day of the new academic year.

“To the girl child I say: Open your books, and close your legs. Don’t open your legs, open your books. Thank you very much,” Phophi Ramathuba is quoted as having told the students.

But she has incurred the wrath of many feminists including opposition politician Siviwe Gwarube who said the minister’s advice to the students was “deeply problematic”.

“This was an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with these learners about consent… Instead you victim blame. Place undue pressure on girls”, the female politician wrote on Twitter.

Another social media user agreed with Siviwe Gwarube, saying: “This is not an appropriate way to talk to kids about abuse, sex and consent.”

Meanwhile, Ramathuba said her speech was misconstrued, adding that she did not leave out the male students when she gave the advice.

“I told the boys to focus on their education and not sleep with girls,” she told South African news site TimesLIVE.

She added that while her critics don’t appreciate her motive, the students themselves didn’t have any problem with what she said.

“They were even saying that they were afraid to say these things and thanked me for calling a spade a spade.”


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