I came across a young girl who was only sixteen and pregnant. She was one the most intelligent in her year at a local school. The natural reaction was to be angry with her. With so many ways of preventing pregnancy I always thought there should not be such a thing as unplanned of unwanted pregnancy.
But she was only sixteen, how could she have accessed contraception. The general assumption is our teenagers are innocent and not yet sexually active. How do we then explain cases of teenage pregnancy? I got a wake up call when I overheard a group of fourteen year olds vividly describing the Kama sutra. We are living in the information age. Information is always at our finger tips and sadly it doesn’t discriminate its recipients. It just opens up to whoever tries to access it. Teenagers are being given the puberty and sex talk by the internet because well a few parents are comfortable talking about sex with their children.
This brings me to the controversial issue. Since they are doing it should we avail contraception readily to them? Is availing contraception to young girls empowering them? The reality on the ground is teenage pregnancy affects the girl more than the guy. She carries the baby for nine months. She goes through the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy. Her protruding stomach is not protected from the judgemental eyes. Well a guy can continue to go to school as if nothing happened.
Some can argue that availing contraception to girls at puberty is empowering them. You are giving them the power to protect themselves sexually from sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. Therefore contributing to equal opportunities to the male child.
On the other end it is considered as exposing them to uninformed danger. The provision of contraception can be interpreted as the green light to be sexually active. Sexual intercourse stops being a taboo or a sacred thing at an early age and there is temptation to indulge. The fear of getting pregnant probably plays a great role in making either girls or boys delay sexual activity. Elimination of that probability takes away the fear.
Results from Massachusetts high schools recorded a drop in overall sexual activity and an increase in sexually active young people using contraception. Will our conservative set up yield such a result.
“Adolescents in schools where condoms were available were more likely to receive condom use instruction and less likely to report lifetime or recent sexual intercourse. Sexually active adolescents in those schools were twice as likely to use condoms, but less likely to use other contraceptive methods, during their most recent sexual encounter1”
The moral values of our society do not permit early sexual activity. At some point sex before marriage was a taboo but now, it is widespread and no longer an embarrassing thing. The same with an early debut into the sexual world. Our world has become extremely sexualised with almost everything having a sexual connotation or suggestion to it. The reality is then the current generation knows about sex earlier than we did and are probably indulging at younger ages than what was common in our days. Should we then protect the adolescence by sexually empowering them or leave them and expose them to the possibly preventable consequences of their actions. Should we morally compromise with the changes taking place in our global village? The fact remains that the good old days of teenage naivety are slowly becoming a thing of the past.
The image of that poor pregnant young girl still crosses my mind. I am not sure of the circumstances that led to her taking that step. My question is how can we protect other girls from the same predicament? How can we effectively bring HIV infection rates amongst adolescences to zero and also make teenage pregnancy a thing of the past?