Patriarchal dominance a reason for low female condom uptake ?

By Sukuoluhle Ndlovu

Masvingo – More than 27 years has lapsed since the female condom became widely available but there’s been a cause of concern over the unfair distribution between the female and male condom, as the male condom seems to be the one which has grown popular amongst the people. Zimbabwe is among the other countries that promoted the use of the female condom hence questions have reason to as why the supply of female condoms remains dire as compared to male condoms. 

Masvingo Urban SASA Champion, Chipiwa Mugabe said the female condom is not favorable amongst the females.

“Women do not favor their condoms as they say it is difficult to put it on while the males say female condom is flexible and you enjoy all the pleasure as compared to male condoms. Some are complaining about the ring that is too big it irritates the user. So there is need to educate women about how to scale up female condoms. There is need to promote the female condom as this is the only way it can be embraced. 

“However, as programmers we need to create an enabling environment for couple communication and promote all the condoms, as well as social reengineering because they men do not want to negotiate during sex plus they have myth and misconception about the use of female condom as you think it is”.

ZNFPC provincial education and marketing officer, Hebert Chikosi said the usage of the female condom comes with one’s ability to influence decision.

“When all is said and done the ability to use condoms depends on one’s agency (the ability to influence decisions). In view of this, we need to appreciate that we are coming against a background of patriarchy in Zimbabwe, whose influence on culture and sexual relationships weighs heavily on men, as game changers and ultimate decision makers. As long as the what, where, when, and how to have sex is decided by men we are bound to see much usage of the male condoms.

He who initiates sex also controls the type of condom to be used. There should be an appreciation of the fact that a condom is a method of family planning. We need to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that condoms are not associated with promiscuity but a proven short term method of family planning,” he said. 

One female said, “There is less popularity amongst the female condom and the known condom is the male condom and it is also the only one being sold in shops. Female condoms are not being advertised well enough that is why even the younger generation does not even have much knowledge on it. The less the distribution, the less the usage. The male condom should become scarce to pave way for the female condom. People need to know the advantages of the female condom,” she said.

Chikosi added that it is also essential that when we marketing female condoms, there is need to engage men first and not leave them behind as we are in a patriarchal state and culture has led to social construction of gender roles and in some instances it is a taboo for a woman to initiate sex.

It has also been noted that it all goes back to power relations; women feel that bringing up a female condom during sex is a sign of being loose, it has to do with socialization and culture. We are there to break the community silence on SRHR issues break the power imbalance and enhance gender equality as far as SRHR is concerned.

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