Back to Africa Check

Do proposed changes to South Africa’s basic education laws include teaching children to masturbate? No, ignore false claims

IN SHORT: South Africa’s proposed Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill, known as the Bela bill, does not make any reference to the curriculum of any school subjects, including life orientation of which sex education forms a part. So viral claims that the bill proposes the teaching of masturbation are blatantly false.

The South African government's proposed Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill, commonly referred to as the Bela bill, has been the subject of intense debate online.

According to basic education minister Angie Motshekga, the bill will amend the 1996 South African Schools Act and the Employment of Educators Act of 1998 to "align them with developments in the education landscape".

In May 2022, parliament’s portfolio committee on basic education released a draft to the public for written comments. By February 2023 more than 29,000 submissions had been received, many expressing concern.

One post circulating on Facebook in June 2023 reads: “We HAVE to start fighting back and make a hell of a noise … Petition against these Bela laws now … the curriculum they want to push includes absurd things like teaching Gr R children things like masturbation, and a lot more horrible stuff.” 

Similar claims about the bill and masturbation are also shared here, here, here and here.

But is it true?


Comprehensive sex ed not covered in Bela bill 

Africa Check asked the basic education department’s spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga whether the Bela bill would see the government introduce  masturbation as part of the curriculum. He said that the bill made “no mention” of school subjects. This includes the subject life orientation, which covers comprehensive sexuality education (CSE).

The focus of the bill was “mainly on the administrative processes of the department and schools”, Mhlanga said.

The department does have policies in place that are meant to guarantee quality and age-appropriate CSE. 

According to the national curriculum statement, for grades 7 to 9 this covers puberty, the concept of sexuality, and sexual behaviour and sexual health. For grades 10 to 12 this covers decision-making regarding sexuality, changes associated with becoming an adult, and risky sexual behaviour.

This is included in the curriculum to help learners “make informed choices about their sexual health, orientation and safety”, according to the policy

The department says that CSE is a “values-based programme that encapsulates core messages which are based on human rights”. 

Masturbation is not mentioned in any of the existing curriculum documents.

The claim that the Bela bill proposes the teaching of masturbation to children is false.

Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.