Friday, 11 April 2014

So Zimbabwe wants to make contraceptives available to 10 year olds :)

Nomawethu Moyo: Guest Blogger

Outrage over Health ministry’s move on child contraceptives... (Link to story)
I’ll just dive into this; I think that would be a step in the right direction. Mid-year 2012, I had an interesting conversation with a 25-year-old woman after I claimed that pregnancy is a choice. The lady had dropped out of university 3 years ago because she had fallen pregnant and had no idea that morning after pills existed... Ah, in this era? I was surprised! She lived in Harare so none of this made sense to me and she really wasn’t lying. Pregnancy should be a choice J I think it's great that the Minister of Health wants to have contraceptives available to everyone (even ten year olds) but I want to argue that we need to accompany them with age-appropriate sex education. Also, those who want to, can attach religious/ ethical/ whatever else annexes to it :)

I read the responses to the link provided above and my, some parents are boiling over this issue. Some say sex is a taboo topic! Someone else equated this move to legalizing cocaine, haibo! HIV/AIDS is here to stay shem! In a society with such high HIV prevalence rates we don’t want to be bashful about sex. The article does not say the Ministry of Health plans on handing out contraceptives, all they want is to make sure these kids will have access to contraceptives. I think this is about normalizing the availability and use of contraceptives. I strongly doubt that exposing kids to contraceptives will promote sexual activity in the pre-puberty/ premature age range. I would be shocked if kids actually walk in to buy contraceptives but I think there's a greater motive behind this... It's going to start some dialogue... I believe it will help us make these things second nature when kids grow old enough to please their sexual appetites. I see potential in this change being a way of cultivating a certain culture geared towards reducing teenage pregnancies and assuring that the youth are well informed to engage in responsible sex.

Does it threaten the innocence of kids? I doubt. I was 8 years old when I got my first dictionary and I remember too well that one of the first words I looked up was sex, I was curious! Knowing about sex at a very young age doesn’t mean I thought about it all the time – I didn’t quite understand what it was anyway. My Mom was great with sex talks, she offered me contraceptives in my late teens but at the same time encouraged me to make responsible choices so maybe what we need is education to help parents deliver sex-talks. But no one wants to be told how to raise his/her flock right? Maybe we should incorporate detailed sex education into school curriculums…

 And, Oh the abstinence message! Yes, we've got to teach people to abstain but if it's not working, we have to admit that hammering the nail on a desk won’t keep the chair intact. If previous attempts at preaching abstinence have been futile, let’s resort to something else that's going to be effective instead! Maybe this and some sex education all over the place is it…

I'm not sure about how the availability of condoms to 10 year olds plays into statutory rape laws etc... It may just force parents to talk about sex or at least we can be assured that if underage kids have sex it will be safe sex. In general, there's some shame associated with using contraceptives and I think this whole issue might be targeting that bigger picture... I have friends who're ashamed of buying condoms, they do but they're so bashful about it or they don’t want to be seen doing it. If the use of contraceptives wasn’t such a hush hush matter maybe this wouldn’t be so. Another common scenario is when unmarried couples cease using condoms because at some point using a condom seems to suggest that you don't trust him/her and that's where the pills are supposed to kick in (without getting tested)! Maybe if we’d been exposed to contraceptives and taught differently this wouldn’t be happening. There are also those "pharmacists" (some of them are just tellers really) who give girls a hard time when they buy morning after pills and I think that's great. HIV is here to stay. We’re not going to overcome this pandemic unless we change a lot of things that are amiss in our communities and I believe that getting rid of the stigma around the use of contraceptives is one of those steps…
Nomawethu Moyo
Guest Blogger

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