South Africa’s Deputy Minister for Social Development Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu has said pregnant women who take alcohol should be charged with child abuse.
The Deputy Minister made the remarks during an event to raise awareness on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Ndwendwe, kwa-Zulu Natal on September 5.
“Women who drink alcohol while pregnant must be charged for child abuse,” she said.
She had attended the event, to prepare the citizens ahead of the International FASD Awareness Day on Saturday, September 9.
“FASD is one of the major sources of non-genetic developmental and intellectual disability globally, and is usually associated with primary and secondary disabilities,” said Bogopane-Zulu.
According to Bogopane-Zulu, the World Health Organization has listed South Africa as having the highest reported prevalence of FASD globally.
She emphasized that pregnant women who take alcohol should be charged in court, in order to reduce cases of children born with FASD.
“South Africans have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, where binge drinking has become the norm amongst youngsters,” Bogopane-Zulu said.
She added that heavy drinking exposes the unborn child to many dangers which may include brain damage.
Consequently, Bogopane-Zulu handed over a stimulation room to the Esidumbini Community Care Centre to assist with the therapy for children with FASD.
However, Vivien Lourens, a FADS awareness champion noted that it was not easy to control the issue of alcoholism among pregnant women.
Pregnant women defended
Lourens defended the women arguing that a mother cannot knowingly give FASD to their children.
According to Lourens, many women may not know they are pregnant and continue drinking until they discover that they are.
“Even if you would like them to be punished, they already have a child with disabilities that they have to take care of,” she said.
“Then, if you put the mother in prison, who will take care of that child? The child will probably end up in the system, and that is a never-ending cycle,” she added.