Female condoms scarcity and lack of use: Gender inequality or lack of advocacy?

Although Africa and the world at large has seen progress towards gender equality, a wide gap still remains and unfortunately may be widening in areas such as health and survival according to the recent report by The World Economic Forum (WEF, 2017) In the area of health and survival women are not getting enough information on choices when it comes to sexual protections. Gender inequality in sex acknowledges that men and women are not equal and therefore do not have equal choices and preferences when it comes to sex. This implies that gender affects an individual’s sex experience. Gender inequality is experienced differently across different cultures. According to a recent report by The Shout Africa Foundation (SAF), a public health foundation in Ghana, men between the ages of 18 and 35 are more likely to initiate sex compared to women between that same age range. Sex is a controversial topic in Ghana which hardly favors women. We do not encourage the sex talk in our homes, in schools and even at churches. A sexually active girl is less likely to open up about her sexuality because of the stigma around women who engage in sex practices. The society labels women who explore their sexuality as strumpets, prostitutes and immoral. It therefore naturally affects how African women respond or open up about sex. Women therefore find it difficult to initiate or express their sexual desires or issues even if there is sexual violence against them. This naturally gives men the upper hand in preparation and initiation of sex, whiles most women are caught unprepared but mostly lured to engage in sexual activities all the time. The National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) conducted three surveys of sexual habits in 1990, 2000 and 2010. It turns out condoms are becoming more popular as the decades go by, particularly among men. The Shout Africa Foundation (SAF) collected data from one hundred pharmacies all over Ghana and all pharmacy attendants confirmed that men buy more condoms than women at a very significant margin. Upon further survey, most single women claimed they felt uncomfortable buying condoms from the pharmacy. Is this a case of women not built to want sex more than men? Or the discomfort is due to the stigma that society places on a woman buying a condom to engage in sexual activity. To discuss the topic of contraceptives further. 100 percent of the males who undertook the survey do not see the point in going to buy a female condom when there are male condoms available. I guess somethings are for females only. Things like sanitary napkins, tampons, and pantyliners, Menstrual cups, cloth menstrual pads, period panties, and sponges. However, there is this alarming non-existence of female condoms in the country. One out of 100 pharmacies or shops do not have female condoms. The reason given by pharmacists was simple, nobody asks for them. According to SAF’s survey on how the lack of advocacy for female condoms is due to gender inequality, people hardly ever hear about female condoms in their everyday lives  as compared to male condoms which different brands are constantly advertising on television, radio and the social media. This is as a result of less advocacy and promotion for female condoms. Women are therefore limited in choices when it’s comes to taking control of their sexual protection. Another argument worth looking into is the negative rumors around female condoms. Seventy four percent of the women SAF interacted with have heard female condoms could be uncomfortable and complex to use. Twenty-five percent have heard nothing about it and about one perfect heard it is easy to use. None of the women admitted they were actual users of the female condom. Can this then be argued out as due to gender inequality in the field of healthy sexual practices. Male condoms still face some resistance from many. There was low patronage back in the days because of the negative rumors around it. Years of public education and advocacy resulted in increased awareness and usage. Maybe we should give female condoms an equal chance as well.]]>

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