Evangelical Christian advocacy in post-apartheid South Africa : the case study of the decriminalization of the child sex provisions of the Criminal law (sexual offences and related matters) Amendment Act.
In December 2007 South Africa passed the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act No. 32 to regulate sexual offences. The Act made it a sexual offence for children aged 12–16 to engage in consensual sex. However, in 2011 the constitutionality of these provisions was challenged when the children’s organizations, Teddy Bear Clinic and RAPCAN applied to the North Gauteng High Court to have these provisions declared as not serve the best interest of children. This successful legal challenge to the child sex provisions of the new Sexual Offenses Act and the subsequent Constitutional Court ruling provoked a lot of public debate among faith communities and children’s rights organization. While in the immediate aftermath of Apartheid, the Evangelical Church in South Africa appeared ambivalent about its role in public culture and about its relation to the State. However in relation to legislation pertaining to sexual and moral ethics, such as abortion, homosexuality and corruption, the evangelical church seemed to have found it voice. It is in this context that through this case study that I examine the Evangelical churches strategies for advocacy on a national level in South Africa. By examining the social, legal and theological debates related to this new Sexual Offence Act, as well as the formal submission made to parliament by evangelical Christian groups, I hope to demonstrate the prevailing discourses around advocacy and lobbyism within this faith community. The primary objective of this research is to interrogate Evangelical Christian lobbyism and advocacy in response to the decriminalization of the child sex provision of new Sexual Offenses Act. The case studies will use archival research (Case Law and, public debates, parliamentary submissions and court papers) as primary data collection methods related to the child sex provisions of the new Sexual Offense Act. This study utilized discourse analysis of legal document and religious literature related to the case study. I sought to examine advocacy and collaboration with the State through the lens of social construction. From my discursive reading of the Evangelical submissions the discourse themes appeared as dominant. I used discourse analysis to show that that there is much more going on when people communicate than simply the transfer of information. To demonstrate this I discussed the following themes which in my emerged from the parliamentary submissions: of guardianship, moral autonomy, age of consent and sexual relationships. These themes offered insight into evangelical motivations for advocacy which is dualistic by inwardly focusing on its membership through theological input and outwardly contesting the State on matters that challenges its beliefs. Finally, the study contributed to the growing body of research related to Evangelical advocacy at the intersection of Church and State in a plural society. This research also made some contribution in understanding the role of Evangelical advocacy in the arena of socio-legal debates and contestation in the public sphere in a plural post-apartheid South Africa as demonstrated by the submissions documented by the other research consulted.
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