One of the interesting things social media does is highlight how little we know about the history and politics of the privileges we enjoy. Especially when it comes to our sexualities and our freedom to express and indulge these sexualities. As the recession worsens and the inflation rises, more people are being forced to contemplate realities they otherwise would have been insulated from. Like the true cost of promiscuity.
The discussion that brought this to light was all at once completely disconnected from and intimately connected to promiscuity; periods. Sanitary pads have nearly doubled in price, tampons too. Discussions on Twitter began to revolve around this increase and how the recession affects the lives of the upper middle class. Before long the discussion turned to at-risk teenage girls and the women and girls living in internally displaced camps and how much their lives must have been affected by the increase.
A Twitter user, @DuchessKK decided to do something about it, starting a twitter campaign to raise funds for monthly distributions of free sanitary pads to girls in low-income schools and IDP camps in Jos, Abuja and Lagos. Her campaign also brought into focus the fact that sanitary pads are not subsidized, a fairly reasonable expectation considering half the population in Nigeria uses sanitary pads and mismanaged periods lead to reproductive health problems. Even if you can ignore that lack of access to sanitary care leads to infections and raises the risk of cancer in the future, the government loses a minimum of 48 days a year from every woman of reproductive age, whether they use good sanitary products or not. There are an estimated 80 million women in Nigeria, 50 of which are of child-bearing age. That translate to an average of 2 billion man hours lost every year to periods. Mind boggling stuff.
The conversation quickly devolved into a discussion of gender inequality with women bringing up the only reproductive health tool subsidized by government and other non-profit organizations; condoms. Women asked that if the money can be found to keep condoms cheap and readily available then the same should be applicable to sanitary care. The vehement backlash that followed this suggestion necessitated this article.
Modern contraception is a relatively new phenomenon. The first condom was made in the US in the late 1900’s, the first health clinic dispensing contraception established in 1916 and the US government endorsing birth control in 1936. The government properly situated itself in the distribution and control of contraception in the mid 1980’s, following the first wave of the HIV epidemic. So until 30 years ago, every man and woman was responsible for their sexual health. Condoms are encouraged as the preferred type of contraception because of its added ability to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). But as everyone knows, condoms are not fool proof, and sexual active adults are advised to stick to one partner. So basically, condoms are a last resort, not a mandated right.
Here’s the gag; Condoms are not offered and subsidized because the government thinks you deserve to sleep with as many people as you want without any repercussions, they are subsidized because the eventual cost of treating chronic sexually transmitted illnesses, and the potential cost of raising orphaned children because of one person’s lack of self control far outweighs paying for a piece of latex mass produced in China. The government isn’t worried about your health, it is looking out for itself. Your promiscuity is a problem the government is trying to solve in the cheapest way possible. Multiple sexual partners aren’t a god-given right stipulated in our constitution, or a biblical injunction. They are your personal decisions, often made at the expense of other people (spouses/children/parents/long term partners/gullible side chicks) with no care for the potential/eventual repercussions.
We will understand and will continue to advocate for condoms to be subsidized, because it has saved many women and men who cannot afford more expensive forms of birth control from unwanted pregnancies. But please, promiscuity is a luxury; one we obviously take for granted.
Let’s not pretend otherwise.