The mayor of South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg, has been criticised for saying that giving schoolgirls sanitary pads would make them focus on sex.

Herman Mashaba comments were sparked by a picture showing the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Nomvula Mokonyane, handing over packs of pads to pupils in reception, aged under six years old, IOL news site reports.

He tweeted that he was “nervous” it that it would make “kids to focus on sex”. He said that doing so amounted to deliberately destroying the future of the youth.

Gender Links’ Sifisosami Dube says this is a lie: “There’s no relation between sanitary pads and sex. Sanitary pads are used for protection.”

Sexual reproductive health expert Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng says Mashaba’s tweets are dangerous.

“The utterances of Mr Mashaba are damaging because he won’t spend time undoing that as he thinks he’s correct. ”

Mashaba has attempted to clarify his comments by saying he has a problem with sanitary towels being given to grade R pupils.