The stigma of buying a condom

In Rwanda, it takes a lot of courage to walk into a shop or pharmacy to buy condoms across a counter. You must master the art of strategy—plan, take deep breaths and then approach a cashier, and stay brave, long enough to endure the stares of the cashier and other shoppers waiting in line.

In Rwanda, it takes a lot of courage to walk into a shop or pharmacy to buy condoms across a counter. You must master the art of strategy—plan, take deep breaths and then approach a cashier, and stay brave, long enough to endure the stares of the cashier and other shoppers waiting in line.

This is probably, associated with a predominantly closed-culture where sex-education is not a public conversation.

Sometimes it is easier for customers to pretend and stroll around supermarkets inquiring about items that are not on the shelves, while from the corners of their eyes, keep watch to see if there are no paying customers at the cahiers desk. Thereafter, they quickly dash in and whisper what they set out to seek.  Brilliant condom customers usually write down their need for condoms, and cahiers are now skilled at secretively packing these condoms, for the comfort of their clients.

Somehow, men can get away with buying condoms, but when the tables are turned to women, the act becomes scandalous.

In order to understand the feeling that women encounter when buying condoms, I decided to go on a condom-shopping spree. I walked into a popular supermarket in Kimironko to buy a packet of condoms.

When I asked the supermarket attendant where I could find the condoms, he was shocked, as if I was asking for a pistol! As if that was not enough, the people around me who heard my inquiry about the price and best type of condom, stared down at me like I was the dirtiest daughter of the nation, who had committed a grave crime.

As I walked to the counter to pay for them, all eyes were on me. The cashier too was extremely embarrassed and looked so uncomfortable. She quickly dropped the condoms in a brown paper bag and it everyone was behaving as if I was stealing not buying them.

This kind of mentality has to change if we are to reduce the HIV/AIDS prevalence and insane percentage of unplanned pregnancies amongst the youth.

What beats my understanding is that when a young woman who is not married and gets pregnant, she receives the same condemnation as one who buys a condom.

I surely respect the value and the essence that surrounds the matrimony institution but not everyone‘s life has to be determined by this institution. Some people have to wait half their lifetime to get that one amazing person to sweep them off their feet and so, that does not mean that they have wait for all that time to make love.

We all at some point in life become sexually active, it is not our own making but it is nature’s call. If nature demands lets not forget to protect our lives will use condoms.

Luckily, I was confident enough to ask for what I wanted, but still felt like sprinting out of the shop given the unfriendly gazes that haunted my very existence.

The killer moment was when the supermarket guard at the door burst out laughing at me. Surprisingly, he was close to the age of fathering me. It was a pity because I realized that if he had children my age probably he never gets to talk to them about reproductive health and the dangers that surround it.

Therefore, Rwandans must come to the point where they must stop judging or stigmatizing people who are trying to protect their lives from HIV/AIDS, STD’s and pre-marital pregnancy. 

Dorau20@yahoo.co.uk

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