To give or not give teens contraception

Florence, 15, was recently expelled from secondary school because of pregnancy.

Her mother could not take the news as she did not expect it. She wishes she heeded advice from a friend who earlier suggested a Norplant implant for Florence.

Experts argue that young women need information, not contraceptives

But a social media debate we monitored showed a mixed reaction to parents taking their teenage daughter for contraception.

Some parents argue that it might encourage them into promiscuity while others think the contraceptives might have negative effects when the girl is grown and ready to have children.

“I cannot allow my child to have either a loop or Norplant. I would rather advise her about the consequences of sex. What is vital is to give our children the information they need about sexual health to make informed decisions,” said one woman who did not want to be named.

Principal youth officer in the Ministry of Labour, Youth and Manpower Development Deus Lupenga said most studies on adolescent sexual and reproductive health show they are the most vulnerable group.

This, he said was because of their developmental characteristics that put them at risk.

According to Lupenga, unprotected sex and multiple sexual partners exacerbate the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) including HIV and Aids and pregnancy.

Consequently, he believes in supporting adolescents’ access to sexual and reproductive health services, including information.

“We primarily do this through provision of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and promotion of services to prevent, diagnose and treat STIs; and counselling on family planning. We aim at empowering young people to know and exercise their rights, including the right to delay marriage and refuse unwanted sexual advances,” he said.

Pakachere Institute of Health and Development Communications executive director Simon Sikwese agreed that what the youth need most is information about their sexual and reproductive health rights.

“They should also be provided with prevention options; with those options made available to them. They need to know, for instance, that condoms can prevent them from getting STIs and unwanted pregnancies while other contraceptives [other than condoms] put them at risk of contracting STIs and HIV. In the absence of such information, their rights are being violated,” he said.

Lupenga, thus, encouraged partners and stakeholders to equip young people with necessary information on sexual and reproductive health.

“The youth need to understand from a young age the risks, their sexuality and how to act in risky situations. Society plays a critical role in supporting young people to make informed and appropriate choices,” he said.

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