Contraception addresses the problems of the poor not by striking at their roots, but by shifting the focus altogether. It reduces poverty by eliminating the poor.
Contraception does not build neonatal care facilities. It does not reduce the distances that girls have to travel to get to distant schools.
It does not assure that the crop will not fail this year, and it does not boost small family businesses. Contraception is a solution, but not the solution to poverty.
Yet, you may still wonder: ‘Why not adopt hormonal contraception and extend maternal healthcare facilities to reach poorer women when it fails?’
When a girl on contraceptives does a pregnancy test and it comes out positive, the first words the man says are usually something along the lines of: ‘I thought you were using contraceptives.’ Although both of them were engaged in sexual intercourse not too long ago, the outcome is her fault. The blame is on her. It’s her burden to bear.
The next few sentences could take one of two routes. Either the man says, ‘We’re in this together’ – he commits himself to raise the child with her, no matter what – or he says, ‘What are you going to do about the problem?’ Or worse, ‘That’s your problem.’
And let’s face it: for 15-year-old girls whose sexual partners are probably incapable of financially sustaining themselves, let alone a family, the second answer is far more likely, even when it’s the man’s condom that failed.
This second answer reduces the woman, supposedly beloved, to a problem. She was never loved for who she was. If she was, then the natural consequence of who she was – a woman – would not be referred to as a ‘problem’. She was loved only insofar as she made her lover happy. She was used. Objectified. From the start.
The man – the objectifier – doesn’t walk away unscathed either. The objectification and the intensity of the sexual experience leave him wanting more. It’s part of male physiology
He becomes less able to have meaningful relationships. He falls into a void of loneliness that many have described, including celebrities like Terry Crews and Russell Brand.
When he marries (if he does marry), the marriage is more unstable. Again, this can devastate him and his partner, not to mention their children, who will be more susceptible to depression, anxiety and alcohol and drug abuse.
Their sons are more likely to become delinquent and to have trouble forming bonds with others (see ‘Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles’ by the Witherspoon Institute, freely available online). And this is what happens when the contraceptives work, which isn’t as often as you might think.
Multiplied on a societal scale, these effects manifest themselves as a dramatic increase in single, unsupported motherhood; a dramatic increase in crime rates and the occurrence of mental health disorders; and an increase in rape and sexual harassment.
The real cause of the crisis that Rwanda’s 15-year-old girls will face is sexual intimacy unaccompanied by the mutual commitment that marriage and offspring tend to come with. The directive that our government proposes is detrimental to both.
The effects this will have on Rwandan society will be enormous. You don’t have to trust us. Just look at the Western world yourself.
THE AUTHOR IS A LAW STUDENT AT STRATHMORE UNIVERSITY