I was utterly shocked when I stumbled upon an article on a local website talking about how contraceptives are increasing sexual activity among the youth. The article claimed that girls in universities are popping the morning after pill like there is no tomorrow and having more sex than ever because they feel they are safe.
The comments show a great deal of concern about the high level of immorality among Rwandan youth.
Yes, young people are having sex. But claiming that the sexually active unmarried young people have lost all morality is unfounded and is just deviating from the real issue which is: how is our society managing the subject of sex as a whole?
The legal age of sexual consent in Rwanda is 18 years. So is the voting age. Why are we ready to trust people with choosing our leader, but do not trust them with their personal lives? Maybe that is because all campaigns eligible for voting are thoroughly organised and made in such a way that all questions are answered before D-day, and communicated results are not contested because the voting process was transparent; but that any real sex education is absent.
Slamming sexual activity as evil like our society is doing has never led us or the African continent, as a whole, anywhere in the matters of fighting HIV/Aids and STDs if we believe the latter’s prevalence levels in sub-Saharan Africa.
Resorting to false claims and shaming young people will not lead us anywhere either. The literacy levels in Rwanda are of about 80 per cent; and most young people are taking science courses. They are used to explanations and discussions; which their parents and schools are denying them yet someone else is talking to them.
Who do you think the youth will listen to?
We need to stop expecting that the deaf “fear campaign” our society is promoting against sex will get us anywhere. Doctors need to come out and silence the now practically accepted myth that contraceptive pills are certain—if not the only—cause of cervical and breast cancers.
We are aspiring to be a developed country but are unwilling to adapt to the changes that come with it. Young people are more aware about sex matters and themselves and are smarter than before. We should seize this blessing and have openhearted two-way discussions instead of expecting traditional minds to come with modern times.
To come back to my statement above, young people are having sex whether we acknowledge it or not, and creating a taboo and fear around it will only exacerbate the problem.
I am not advocating that young unmarried people should have sex. I am advocating for a society that sees them for who they are: smart people capable of making decisions about their careers, personal lives and the county’s future.
Raissa Kamaliza, Rwanda