There are several factors as to why female condoms are unpopular and this time round there is no need to drag in the gender insensitivity issue.
While empowering women for gender equality, there is also need to empower them to protect themselves from Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s) especially, HIV/AIDS. This also applies to the right on when to have sex and when to bear children; hence the need for women to have access to condoms.
Cynthia Ginti, a presenter on Contact FM, she said that although female condoms are less practical in Rwanda, there are other factors that should be considered.
“Culturally, it’s a male thing to be sexually open and not a thing for women,” Ginti discloses.
She further explains that, “with the reserved nature of women in Rwanda, they cannot openly obtain female condoms because it is culturally wrong.”
If stigma is still witness even with the male condoms yet, it is somehow acceptable for a man to be sexually open, then the female condoms will remain unpopular. This kind of mentality is a barrier to the 2009-2012 Rwandan strategic plan which stipulates that HIV/AIDS prevalence should be reduced from 3 to 1.5 percent.
Just as women have been empowered in different sectors of the country, it is important to sensitize them about living a healthy life through embracing their rights to family planning.
Think of an instance where in the moment of pleasure a male partner does not have condoms because he probably, forgot to bring the condoms or maybe, because he did not have the guts to suck up his pride and tell the shopkeeper to give him a packet of condoms. By the way, where is it written that it is only men supposed to carry condoms around?
Zacch Akinyemi, Country Representative of Population Services International (PSI), attributed the unpopularity of Female condoms to a batch of factors.
“Generally the male condom was produced before the female condom. Before the female condom came into the market the male condom, like all products, went through phases in every society,” Akinyemi explains.
According to Akinyemi, the phases include; Innovators, early adopters, late adopters and those that lag behind. The product life cycle also follows the same pattern, which includes; the introduction into the market, growth of the product, maturity of the product then probably at some point, it declines.
“The male condom is at the maturity level, when it was new in the market, one was considered a sinner or promiscuous to use it since it meant sleeping with a lot of women. A few people especially the innovators adopted, while the rest of the population were stigmatizing condoms,” Akinyemi explains.
He further adds that it was through extreme sensitization by Governments and NGOs that the barriers that led to stigma were broken.
“The level of stigma associated with the use of the male condom has gone down therefore it is popular. It was after the male condom had gained ground globally that the thought of empowering the women to also take ownership of safe sex practice that the female condom was introduced,” he adds.
During a study he carried out in Nigeria regarding the use of the female condom, he discovered that several issues were raised.
“The female condom is not as popular as the male condom because the female condom has to go through the market phase. Therefore the lesson used to break the barriers of the male condoms should be considered while promoting the female condom,” says Akinyemi.
The model used while demonstrating how to insert the female condom is one of the ways to break the barrier for women to be able to use the female condom.
“The other barrier to be broken is to encourage the men to accept their partners (women) to use the female condoms thus the female condom will gain popularity,” Akinyemi expresses.
Although the female condom on the commercial market is more expensive than the male condom, a strategy is being put in place to subsidize the female condom on the social market thus become affordable.
With the endless need to promote safe sex, the female condom should be promoted hence achieve the goal of reducing HIV/ AIDS prevalence and unplanned pregnancies that mostly lead to unsafe abortions and maternal deaths.