Phophi Ramathuba: South Africa minister who told schoolgirls to ‘open your books and close your legs’ comes under fire

A South African minister has come under fire on social media for telling schoolgirls to ‘open your books and close your legs’.

“To the little girl: open your books and close your legs. Don’t open your legs, open your books. Thank you very much,” Minister Phophi Ramatuba can be heard telling the students in excerpts from the video shared widely on social media.

The students can be heard repeating the minister’s words in the video.

The health minister made the remarks on Wednesday during a visit to Gwanane Secondary School in Sekgakgapeng township aimed at reducing teenage pregnancy rates and encouraging abstinence, the BBC reported.

Ms Ramathuba said girls were attracted to older men to use luxury goods like expensive wigs and smartphones, a report by South African news site Times LIVE said.

“Some young people have contracted HIV/AIDS because they are with older people, they want blessed ones. The smartphone and the Brazilian hair they bought you is not free, it comes with a disease,” the minister said, calling for a ban on Brazilian hair extensions.

The remarks sparked outrage on social media as many questioned why the ‘blaming the victim’ message was aimed at girls.

“ARE YOU SERIOUS? Is this sex education by our government? Blaming the victim and pushing the narrative? It’s disgusting,” said Women for Change, a gender-based violence NGO in South Africa. .

The minister said her message was also for boys, according to the report.

“I told the boys to concentrate on their education and not to sleep with girls,” said the minister.

The girls then thanked her for calling a spade a spade, she added.

Opposition leader Siviwe Gwarube, however, said the narrative being pushed by the health minister was “deeply problematic”.

“Shifts the responsibility to girls to carry the burden of safe sex practices and rape culture. This is rubbish,” she said in a tweet, sharing the incident.

Nearly 33,400 girls under the age of 17 in South Africa gave birth in 2020, according to government data released in November of the same year.

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