The Citizen (Dar es Salaam)

25 September 2011

Tanzania: Casual Sex - Young Girls Find Themselves At a Crossroads

opinion

Modern culture, popularised by Western media, relentlessly puts forth the idea that casual sex is a way station on the road to love. Call me primitive and unrealistic, but I believe it isn't.

Recently, I managed to get an inside story of a Form Three student. Let's call her Agatha. This 17-year-old feels that men misunderstand her when it comes to relationships.

Because she refuses to have premarital sex, her friends occasionally tell her that she is being "too hard". If she keeps on acting like that, they warn her, she will not get a serious man to marry. Really?

Test drive

There is a general belief among young girls of Agatha's age that men want to "test" the "food" before committing themselves to a permanent union. You can call it a test drive, if you like.

Sadly, after the so-called "testing", many a gutless man would dump the girls and ironically look for a "decent" girl when the time to marry comes.This explains Agatha's stance: "I am cheerful, but underneath I am hard when it comes things concerning myself and my body."

She says that, many of her girlfriends, some younger than her, are victims of casual sex. "Men use them under the false sense of pleasing a future husband. They are dumped along the way," says Agatha. But this has consequences.

A recent research shows that one of the factors behind the increase in HIV prevalence among young Tanzanian girls is casual sex.

Many girls start having sex at a very young age, according to recent data from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The report shows that 59 per cent of girls sampled started having sex before the age of 18, compared to four per cent of boys.

The statistics show that 14 per cent of girls had casual sex before they turned 15 years old, according to Dr Chilanga Asmani, the UNFPA's HIV and Aids Programme Officer.

And when it comes to marriage, 15 per cent of girls are married between the ages of 15 and 19 while five per cent of boys sampled got married at the age of 18 to 19. We blame this on the misguided, hedonistic philosophy that urges young women into casual sex.

While it harms both men and women, it is particularly more damaging to women. We need women role models to show young girls that they are not sexual objects, or lustful adult men's playthings!

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