HARARE – Last week there was public furore over reports that the ministry of Health and Child Welfare was pushing for a legal framework to support the distribution of contraceptives to adolescents aged between 10 and 24 years.
This was in response to the increasing cases of teenage pregnancies and high maternal mortality rate. A lot of people used various platforms including social media to air their views on some of this seemingly “contentious issue”.
So intense were the “concerns” that the responsible ministry had to convene a press conference to set the record straight.
The minister David Parirenyatwa was quoted saying “We as a ministry of Health and Child Welfare, we do not have a policy that advocates giving contraceptives to underage children. We are very clear about this. Clear because we are guided not only by our policy, but by the social-cultural and medical prerogatives in our country.”
Well said but my problem with the statement is that those underage children getting pregnant and dying while giving birth remains a fact.
Can they be ignored simply because they are underage? If we have such a situation then it means that our moral fabric has been eroded. We should admit that moral decay has taken root in our society. If one moves in the streets of Harare you can see hordes of street children who are below 10 years who are already sexually active. That shows that our society is not as good as we think.
We should never be idealistic about moral values which no longer exist. What we do is our culture and we should accept that indeed we have a big problem of teenage pregnancies which needs holistic solutions which go beyond hiding behind imaginary cultures and values.
Indeed if statistics from the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZHDS) show that the number of teenage pregnancies is high and continues to increase appropriate action must be taken.
Being rigid on the age of legal age of majority and marriage is not a solution to this menace.
If we make it difficult for those who can be helped by accessing contraceptives then we are promoting a bad practice by simply ignoring it.
Every life should be protected and as such wholesale solutions to issues will not be in the best interest of everyone.
As the minster said moral values should guide any policy for a country, those morals should hold true and if they break down they cannot be used as a benchmark for any societal decisions.
The reaction shown by many people to this issue has been mainly emotional as they pictured their own children being given those contraceptives.
It is very frightening to imagine such a thing happening to your own child. However, there is need to see the other side where teenagers have been failed by society and are already indulging in sex.
Should they die simply because our moral fabric is at stake and that what they are doing is against Zimbabwean norms and values.
Progressive Zimbabweans should seek viable solutions which demands sober minds to reach a compromise.
It is the duty of every parent to inculcate into their children good social values and norms.
If parents are failing to do that then proper measures must be put in place to help those in such circumstances.
We should see the complete picture and proffer realistic solutions.
An entirely dismissive approach in the face of grim statistics will not help. We may have choices but those choices are limited and we can never run away from this issue by simply dismissing it.
Those who should access these contraceptives should be allowed to do so for their own good, while parents should play the proper parenting role.
We should accept that teenage pregnancies are a reality just like HIV and Aids and we should respond holistically.