Sex is great. It really is. Young people are having sex, teens are engaging in sexual activities, it has become a norm. The rising number of teenage pregnancies attests to this. Young people, particularly those from townships and rural areas, are huge contributors to the statistics.
Condoms are freely available. Female condoms are available as well, and they even have flavours. However, we still do not use them. I have heard people say they prefer raw sex. Sex is an act between two people, however, the responsibility of preventing pregnancy is placed on the female due to the birth control system in our country. Contraceptives are free of charge at public clinics for the majority of the population that cannot afford family planning services offered by the private sector.
Looking at myself, and those around me, the answer to the question of the use of contraceptives is usually the same. The older nurses judge and do not respect the privacy of young women who seek family planning services at their local clinics. Most girls fear that people, even their own families, will find out about their sexual lives, should they start using contraceptives. There is a certain stigma around young women having sex lives. Society sees nothing wrong with a 16-year-old boy buying a packet of condoms but his female counterpart will face judgement for seeking contraceptives.
The reasons for not using contraceptives are many. I know girls, myself included, who fear weight fluctuations, changes in menstrual cycles and the shame of asking a nurse for help. Personally, I think it boils down to a lack of information. We are living in a digital world: information is available at the click of a button. I believe that the approach to receiving information about this issue should take a different turn.
We’re raised in different families, with different values and lifestyles. Most young people, particularly girls, are rarely taught about sex and prevention. It’s always, “You dare fall pregnant,” or, “Focus on your school work and leave boys.” The sex talk is just off the table.
I remember when it was announced that sex education would be introduced from primary school level. I was furious, thinking that it would encourage kids to start having sex. However, having fallen pregnant at the age of 19, my perspective has changed. I also wish I had more knowledge on sex and prevention. Sex education and family planning is very important. Knowledge is power. Young girls should be taught that it is okay to choose to engage in sexual activities. As long as they consent to it and practise safe and responsible sex. They should be taught in schools, campaigns, and clinics about the different methods available for birth control: the injection, condoms, oral contraceptives, the patch, and all the other methods that are available and their side effects.
In clinics the staff should be trained how to give advice, to maintain confidentiality and to give clarity to these young girls. In this day and age, the issue of the shame girls feel about collecting contraceptives should be history. It would even make a huge difference if the staff handling family planning services were the young nurses. It is very difficult to talk about sex with an older person. I remember my first time getting contraceptives. The nurse told me that sex before marriage was a sin and that the youth had no shame. Such behaviour and mentality needs to stop. Yes, girls do engage in sex and many do consider family planning, but it is behaviour like this that makes us think twice and end up part of teen pregnancy statistics.
Give girls access to contraceptives. Do not shame girls for wanting to avoid unplanned pregnancies. Let us make contraceptives fashionable.
Tell us: Do you agree that we should not shame girls wanting contraceptives?