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Teenagers ripe for adult talk

By | October 23rd 2010

Should parents bury their head in the sand and assume their girls are virgins or should they face the reality that their kids may be sexually active? JOHN MUTURI, asks.

Recently, I gave a lift to two secondary school girls after they desperately flagged me down. They claimed to have been sent home due to school fees arrears, but their eyes were shifty and kept exchanging suspicious glances.

One of them asked me about my car. For unexplained reasons, I lied that I was a driver on the way to pick my employer’s children from school.

They felt more at ease and asked whether I could run an errand for a fee. One of them gave me Sh400 and a piece of paper written ‘Postinor-2 tablets’. She asked me to buy the tablets in a chemist in the next shopping centre.

Curious, I went along and asked the girl at the counter what the tablets were for. She said it is an oral emergency contraceptive which can help prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

She casually asked who had sent me and craned her head when I pointed at the car a few metres away. Unfortunately, she raised the two girls’ suspicions. They literally vanished before I got back to the car. That got me thinking.

There are many conflicting opinions over whether to allow adolescent girls to use the pills.

There is the pressing need to preach against sex before marriage to uphold moral values and religious beliefs.

On the other hand, there is the need to prevent the consequences of irresponsible sex, including the spread of STDS, pregnancies and psychological traumas. That today sex is happening among our adolescents in their early youth is a fact.

Teenage pregnancies

One reason is that as a result of improved diet and better standards of living, girls now get their first menstruation quite early. No wonder girls aged between nine and 13 are becoming pregnant.

Consequently, one major parenting problem today is dealing with teenage pregnancies and their consequences. Adolescents find themselves at crossroads and are not fully able to comprehend these.

With the anxieties and misinformation from peers and the mass media, some girls indulge in sex, barely understanding consequences such as unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections including HIV.

There are wide ranging consequences for the girl. For instance, left untreated or improperly treated, STIs often lead to many health hazards and even infertility. If girls have many sexual partners at a tender age, they stand a higher chance of developing cervical cancer.

It is also unfortunate that the teenage mother is still a child herself and is not physically or psychologically prepared for motherhood.

The dilemma is to find the most appropriate measures to take to stem this problem.

Some may think that this is tantamount to giving teens a license to indulgence in careless sex.

Lucy Mwaura, headmistress of Visions Academy in Nairobi says it is not as if girls are not aware of their sexuality — many are already sexually active. What they lack is proper information about how their bodies function and the consequences of casual sex.

Is the sex safe?

They need also proper education on morals and values.

She says parents and teachers should jointly embark on counselling the youth by introducing discussions on sexuality.

She maintains that while teachers do their work in teaching sex education, parents no longer play their traditional role of advising their children on morals.

This is why, ignorant, youth grope in the dark and rely on a lot of misinformation from their peers and the media.

She says an all-inclusive form of counselling on pre-marital sex and the use and effects of contraceptives would help a lot. Even then, girls should be given full information, for instance, that the pill must be taken regularly and that it is not 100 per cent effective meaning there is still the risk of becoming pregnant.

As far as the church is concerned, sex out of marriage is out of question. It is categorical that pills should only be used within marriages hence it is immoral and unethical to allow use of the pills to girls.

This implies that allowing girls use contraceptive pills means that as long as we are preventing unwanted pregnancies, then it is alright for the young to indulge in pre-marital sex.

One doctor however sees it differently. While it is important to uphold moral values, he says, parents can’t continue to bury their heads in the sand about the many cases of desperate girls attempting dangerous backstreet abortions.



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