Contraceptives and teens? Reshaping the debate

By Butera Michael
On 14 November 2019 at 02:54

Not long ago, as I was catching up with the world, I came across an article in The New Times, Rwanda, titled ‘15-year-olds could soon access contraceptives’. Not only did the article catch my attention, but it also afforded me the opportunity to rationalize and battle down questions that popped out of my mind while reading: What is the cause of the rampant increase of pregnancies among young girls? Are we really solving the issue? What does ‘15 years age’ mean in law, particularly in relation to adult age, 18 years? Let’s say the Bill passes, what is the aftermath? All these inquiries need deep contemplation to at least have a say on them.

Now, I suppose that legislators are acting in good faith and are zealously striving to solve the problem. However, seldom do they pose to ponder the sequels of their solutions.
It is settled practice that more often than not, legislators deal with specific situations and pressing issues, and hence fail to oversee the long awaiting scheme of consequences.

I envisage that this bill, if passed, will amount perfectly to the above described situation. My argument stems from an ethical point of view of contraception rather than a legal one.

Disease or symptom?

The salient questions that should be thrown into perspective are: Is the increase in the number of teenage pregnancies a problem? What’s the cause? What drives the cause? And how do we address ourselves to stemming out the ‘causes’?

It is beyond a shadow of doubt that teenage pregnancies are an outcome of sexual activity. It is equally true that adolescent pregnancies are linked to things such as lack of education, lack of adequate information about reproduction, peer pressure and early engagement in sexual activity. Without delving into the nitty-gritties of this causality of events, it is rather convenient to just address the issue as the crow flies.

Providing contraceptives to a person as young as the age of 15 does not, even in the least, solve the predicament. The hitch is deep rooted in cultural evolution and dynamism that normalizes immorality and subjects the judgment of what is wrong or right to insensitive hearts.

Allowing 15-year olds to access contraceptives, in other words, would match an instructor who encourages his subject to engage in a risky and dreadful task citing a rich compensating insurance plan. And the words perhaps would flow like ‘great, do it, you are covered’.

It is of a short time until we realize that indeed such laws (the Bill) are propagative in nature and only encourage irresponsible sexual behaviour in all circumstances, which is destructive to individuals, families and ultimately the society as a whole.

I don’t think allowing 15-year olds access to contraceptives is a long-term solution to early pregnancy; I think it does not even stand a short time tenure. It only postpones the harm which is sharply and accumulatively waiting to strike where it hurts most and with massive destruction.

Why are young women and men engaging in sexual activities as early as at the age of 15? This should be the debate in parliament rather than ‘how should we deal with these unwanted pregnancies?’.

Although ‘Unwanted Pregnancies’ have invited legislators to think about how to prevent them, it should be equally noted that they are only a result of careless engagement, loose manners, lack of self-restraint and purpose among youths.

Thus, legislators should prudently find a solution not in the (result) pregnancies, but in the (cause): behaviours, attitudes, upbringing, exposure, lack of training in ethics in schools from an early age, detachment from culture and neglect of customs.

This raises serious questions and calls for a deep understanding of how traditional Rwanda is raising her young ones. It is true that this is a trend, which means that it was not the same in previous decades.

We are evolving and we are changing. To some point, we should reflect on this trajectory and be able to track what went wrong along the way. This is even so when referring to Rwanda, a well narrated culture.

A contraceptive culture is dangerous; it basically ‘frees’ young men and women, releasing, nay, confining them into sexual bondage. Their ‘free-world’ becomes their destruction. Their prison.

Thinking that the veil of consequences is lifted, a contraceptive culture drives teenager into widespread sexual immorality, they objectify and reduce sex to a ‘commodity’ of pleasure and enjoyment. And the consequences? [To be continued].

This is a three-part series article where the author gives tickling insights into why the debate on access to condoms among teenagers in Rwanda should be revisited, attend to the causes other than the symptoms. In the second part to be published Monday 18th November, the author explains “Why the Condom Culture is a Prosperity Fallacy”.

THE AUTHOR IS A LAW STUDENT AT STRATHMORE UNIVERSITY


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