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Teenage Pregnancy's double standards

Pregnant teens are often condemned and threatened with loss of support by their own parents and fathers of their babies. Moja Love’s Teenage Pregnancy emphasises how differently society treats girls and boys
Author: Ree Ntuli
Thu, Mar 10, 2022

Ever so often, the discussion about young girls falling pregnant while still in school makes its way into public discourse.

Opinions vary and finger-pointing becomes the order of the day as strangers from all walks of life band together to offer their five cents’ worth, which can range from scathing criticism to downright condemnation which is often dressed as concern. Girls’ bodies become public property, therefore subject to public scrutiny.

Everyone – from parents, to teachers, to even men who are absent fathers to scores of children – unites to form a co-operative body whose main goal is to solve the problem which is girls and their ‘unruly’ bodies. Everybody, except the girls themselves, is welcome to make life-altering decisions on behalf of the young pregnant girls. You get bonus points if you’re a taxpayer.

Amu, Ntando and Zanele are the three teenage girls whose bodies have become the subject of public discourse and scrutiny as they share their pregnancies and subsequent motherhood journeys on Moja Love’s new show, Teenage Pregnancy.

The show, which comes on the heels of the August 2021 Gauteng Department of Health’s statistics that revealed that more than 23,000 schoolgirls fell pregnant between April 2020 and March 2021, aims to tackle the issue of girls falling pregnant while still in school.

The first thing you are likely to notice when you sit to watch the show for the first time, is the undeniable resentment from mother to daughter. Beyond the disappointment of seeing their daughters, for whom they had big and wild dreams, one can almost touch the mothers’ indignation and recrimination.

One such mother is Maki Dlamini, Amukelani’s mom.

She has made it crystal clear that she’s not going to be in any way involved in the raising of Amukelani’s child. For anyone who dismisses her declarations as empty threats, they only need to meet Maki’s eldest daughter, who also fell pregnant at an early age and had to raise her child without any help from her mother because she made it known, a long time ago, that she is not in the business of raising children that are not her own. She is irritable throughout the show and doesn’t miss an opportunity to scold Amukelani for her poor choices.

There are concerning occurrences on the show as well that are a stark reflection of our society and how differently we treat girls and boys. In one of the episodes, Zanele’s family goes to deliver the news of her pregnancy to the family of the boy who impregnated her.

The interaction between the two families becomes so heated it nearly becomes physical as the boy’s family slut-shames Zanele and asks her intrusive questions about her bodily autonomy and sexual choices.

In contrast, Smanga, the father gets treated with kid gloves and is afforded the luxury to make silly analogies like when he asked his own mother if she could ever eat meat with gloves on – this, in response to a question about safe sex. Everybody just laughs it off as if he did not just say the crassest thing to an elder.

Weighty as the show is, it isn’t without moments of comic relief, we learn that Zanele and Smanga are best friends who, on one Christmas day, felt the spirit of merriness between them and decided to do something about it, so they lay together and thus, a baby was formed.

When asked how she could possibly know who, between her then boyfriend and Smanga is the father of her child, she admits, with a straight face, that much as she loved her ex-boyfriend and whose departure from her life has made her terribly sad, it was only with his best friend that she chose to have unprotected sex.

The show offers many learning opportunities. One such moment is the issue of termination of pregnancy – a ‘solution’ that many mothers of teenage girls often seek without listening to how these soon-to-be mothers feel. This alludes to how a lot of pregnant teenage girls get coerced into terminating their pregnancies regardless of their own politics, albeit still developing.

The show also shines a spotlight on the complicated and tumultuous mother-and-daughter relationships that can often be damaged beyond repair.

The absence of males/father-figures is yet again, a sore point. Their silence is louder than the bells at Saint George’s Cathedral – a travesty when one considers that it does indeed take a village to raise a child.

  • Teenage Pregnancy is on Moja Love (DStv channel 157) Tuesdays at 9.30pm