How much promiscuity is going on in our society, asks Mulenga

THE nation should examine laws to assess whether they are adequate to prevent and protect children against unlawful sexual practices, says

Zambia Civic Education Association executive director Judith Mulenga.

Mulenga, on teenage pregnancies, noted that children having children was a global social challenge and vilifying and demonising sex was not the solution to teenage sexual activities, teenage pregnancies, early or child marriages.

“It is short-sighted and will not resolve these social challenges. There is need for an interdisciplinary, multi-sectoral approach to these social challenges. Scare tactics and untruths will not work. You cannot tell children that sex is not fun when they are clearly having fun indulging in it. You cannot ask children what demons drive them into sexual activities when they do not see, hear or feel the demons,” she said.

Mulenga said government officials being primary duty bearers should only speak when they have all the facts or evidence at hand and should not be blurting out pronouncements that serve no purpose at all.

She said displays of paradigms of virtue by those in leadership in a society where adults were equally having unplanned children was terribly misplaced and disingenuous.

“How much promiscuity is going on in our society? How many children are being born out of casual relationships in our so-called Christian nation? Apart from children who are orphaned or part orphaned how many children are born from adult females and not living with both mother and father? Where does ‘bana bapanyumba’ come from and how accepted is that in our society?” Mulenga asked. “So if adults are irresponsibly having children, how are children expected to behave more responsibly and with more restraint? Why does this society hold children up to higher standards of behaviour than adults? Is that even normal? Who does not know that children model behaviours they see or observe among adults?”

She said government officials should first consult experts of various competences and expertise before making public pronouncements on issues.

Mulenga said development psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, health specialists and even economists should be consulted to bear on the subject before coming up with statements on why teenagers were not delaying indulgence in sexual activities until they were older and more in control of their lives and sexuality.

“Until you know the reasons for teenage early onset of sexual activities it is best to keep quiet. Is it poverty? Is it the lack of career prospective or peer pressure or lack of knowledge on sexuality or lack of communication, lack of self-esteem, lack of agency and autonomy or a combination of all? Whatever it is, leave demons or fun or no fun out of it,” she said.

Mulenga said from a child rights perspective both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child obligates governments to prevent inducement or coercion of children in engaging in unlawful sexual activities; prevent exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices and prevent exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.

She said in line with those obligations, the Zambian government needs to decisively deal with “this issue in this new year”.

Mulenga said the nation should examine the national laws to assess whether they were adequate to prevent and protect children against unlawful sexual practices.

“Next, in consultation with the relevant social scientists, parents or guardians, teachers, media specialists, religious and traditional leaders and children themselves come up with practical prevention programmes with set goals of reduction of teenage pregnancies that are specifically aimed at the ‘at most risk’ girls in the country,” she said. “For the sceptics such programmes do actually work in reducing teenage pregnancies and there are several models which Zambia can emulate, of course by taking into consideration the social construct of childhood in Zambia.”

Mulenga said the time to decisively act was now as letting “this social challenge carry on unabated had dire consequences for the country beginning with diminished human development index scores and spiralling vicious cycles of poverty”.

She said the current gender inequality and discrimination would seem like the golden era of gender equality in Zambia.

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