Young women just can’t catch a break, can they? I was minding my own business when a friend pointed out that in my region of origin, Kagera, secondary school girls are made to undergo pregnancy tests every quarter to “protect them from unwanted pregnancies.”
Where does one even begin with this nonsense? A pregnancy test is about as effective at contraception as leaving the condom in the wrapper and praying not to catch anything. Good luck with that.
In principle, I agree with the gist of the exercise: Teenage pregnancies are not desirable for a number of health and societal reasons.
But as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Point the first: There is a violation of some kinds of rights going on here.
The bodies of young women are sovereign and should not be violated under the pretext of protection. There is the matter of consent, and honestly it makes me see red, the idea of school officials making my nubile young sistren pee on a stick. That goes double if the person making them pee on said stick is wearing a uniform. I know a kink when I see one.
Speaking of people in uniform: Nope. That’s point the second. If we’re going to regiment issues of human sexuality, the first stop of call has to be sex education. And I am not speaking about the young people, here.
Young people in general can be extremely smart and strategic when given information and options.
Feel free to research how incredibly effective sex education is at reducing teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections as well as increasing the age of first sex as well as age of first marriage irrespective of geography.
It works in Cote d’Ivoire as well as it works in Denmark.
Old people, on the other hand. They need help. That’s point the third. Our elders seem to be stuck in a nightmare where it is acceptable to deny their progeny information about the birds and the bees while believing that punitive measures are an acceptable way to govern human sexuality. That it is happening in my region of origin is just embarrassing.
As part of the lacustrine people, I have always prided myself on our sex-positive progressiveness in these matters. We’re not generally a culture in which people are scared of sex, but something happened and I still can’t bring myself to trust the Church and our embrace of it.
That’s point the fourth. We all know what happens when clerics and people who have accepted the Western Fear of Sex try to insert their fat-fingered opinions into little girls’ panties. Are you uncomfortable yet? Good.
Because that’s a Bad Touch and I am not interested in forgiving that on any level. There is probably no circumstance in which it is sanitary to have institutional people administering the reproductive lives of healthy young people.
Just writing that sentence makes me want to take a shower... Alone, Sister Mary Margaret, please. No, you may not watch.
So, let’s get to the practicalities of solving these problems for young Kagera women and by proxy all the other young women who have to endure sexual harassment in all its iterations on the pretext of culture, or “protection” or whatever else The Patriarchy has dreamed up.
Maybe the first thing to do is to take a deep breath and just relax a little bit.
Ask ourselves why we are so obsessed with virginity tests and other invasive procedures that affect women’s bodies. Admit that it’s not right. And then do better.
Since women cannot self-pollinate, it makes sense to look at the other side of this equation. The amazing Rebecca Gyumi just won a case against the government of Tanzania, forcing it to outlaw the practice of child marriage. It is a wonderful step in the right direction, and yet not enough.
Now we have to work on the criminalisation, not of pregnancy, but of impregnation of minors. It is precisely because reproductive laws are made for the benefit of men in the patriarchy that this has to become a mission.
Finally, and easiest of all: let’s just offer sex education to the public. Not just schoolchildren, but also the adults who so clearly need it.
This way when we argue against making young girls pee on a stick every three months, there will be a reasonable base of knowledge on which to conduct the ensuing controversy.
Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report, http://mikochenireport.blogspot.com. E-mail: [email protected]