Saturday, 8 March 2014

SRH Issues and the ‘Culture of Over-Trusting Elders’

I have come to realise that among the factors that bring about sexual reproductive health problems among young people in our society is, with due respect, the culture of over-trusting elders.

We tend to believe everything that the elders say as gospel truth and we do not even question the rationale behind their proclamations. The elders also know this and they sometimes take advantage of our dupable little selves to advance their egocentric agendas. They just give prescriptions on how certain things should be done without giving any justification what so ever.

However, if the elders are to give their reasons for taking a particular stand, their reasons are always unsatisfactory and somehow very fallacious. Surprisingly, the elders always have a last say on everything and they get support no matter what. Their jurisdiction is indisputable and their ideas are always unanimously agreed. Here are some anecdotes;

    -14-year old Nabengo will marry John next month and she will drop out of school.We are          all happy about it and it is nobody but her uncle himself who has said so.  

      Subsection (7) of section 22 of the Constitution of the Republic Malawi permits marriages      of people who are aged between 15 and 18 so long as there is parental consent.  

    - All adolescent girls will commence the forthcoming academic year studies a bit late                 because the elders of this village want them to undergo an initiation ceremony first.

   - All the boys and girls who undergo initiation ritual sleep with members of the opposite sex      as a way of welcoming them to the world of elders. This is a way of proving to them that            they    are now adults and they are free to do what the adults do.

   - Since we do not have enough money to pay tuition fees for two children; Nasibeko will not      go to secondary school and instead her brother will. After all there are so many good                suitors in this village.

All the above statements were consummated in each scenario without further ado and no questions were asked.

This brings me to the question, Why is there too much trust in the elders? For instance, the case of the above quoted  subsection (7) of sections 22 of the Constitution; everyone in Malawi knows that there are some greedy parents who marry off their daughters as young as 15 with well to do old men. The reason for marrying off their daughters is just to enjoy somebody’s wealth using their unwary daughters as baits.

 Why does our Republican Constitution provide a legal backing to child abuse and infringement of adolescent girls’ sexual reproductive health rights?

Let us reflect a little bit more and envision the size and how a 15 year old Malawian girl looks like. I think it is improper to put her fate in the hands of elders (parents) who are also subjected to error. By the way, have our good legislators and elders ever listened to the doctors’ lecturers on obstetric fistula?

For quite sometime, sexual and reproductive health issues and rights of young people have been neglected.

 I would like hear the views of young people who, in this case, are at the receiving end...  

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