In the wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, many things have happened and just like the disease itself, everything was abrupt. COVID-19 came like a mid-night storm that finds you off-guard. Many, if not all of us, did not have an idea of what was to befall us. The most immediate concern was about survival; putting food on the table. The second was figuring out the continuity of work.
Many people — including young adults — found themselves stuck at home with spouses they were not used to and others were in places away from their spouses. Many young adults have found themselves in situations where they had to make important and instant decisions regarding issues such as their sexual and reproductive health.
Reproductive health is a part of our being as humans. The unfortunate news is that we never talk about it aloud. It is always in the undertone. In their conversation with us, the team from PSI Uganda namely: Doreen Muyama, Bashir Kabuye and Fred Irumba shared a number of insights on matters sexual and reproductive health; specifically, safe sex, contraceptive use and consent which we would like to share with you below:
On Sexual and Reproductive Health
Reproductive health is a cornerstone of everyone’s life. It affects us all on a mental, emotional, and physical level. However, many of us are unaware of this. When one has poor health, they are limited in how they can function to earn a living; for example, people living with HIV/AIDs are often discriminated against in some workplaces because of their status. We think this topic only applies to married couples and especially women. Very many men do not want to participate in conversations about sexual and reproduction health thinking they are not candidates which is wrong. SRH, as it is known, affects us all especially young people.
The scope of young people is quite wide. The young people in urban areas can easily access accurate information through online platforms. Those in rural areas, you avail print material but also using platforms like local radio stations.
When COVID-19 struck, people were caught off-guard. Many were not comfortable with the people they were quarantined with. Some people have not taken the trouble to be able to know how to cope. This is the basis of Gender-Based Violence (GBV). GBV does not consider only women and children, it includes men. The fact that people cannot leave their perpetrators has left many vulnerable to be recurring victims.
All the places victims of GBV would initially run to were locked up leaving the victims with nowhere to seek support.
On Safe Sex
Safe sex is one of the most asked questions, especially during the lockdown. Safe sex means that one takes precaution together with their partner and agree on having sex. Many youths were brought up in spaces/families where sex education was never talked about. They fear to talk about their experiences. Many are languishing in pain unable to seek help because they fear they will be judged. Also, SRH requires money to afford the services. If one does not have money, they risk failing to get access to treatment. Young people have been affected greatly due to unsafe sex because they could not access sexual reproductive services. There are high chances of a high number of unwanted pregnancies post COVID along with sexually related illnesses.
On Contraceptive Use
Most of the youth do not consider SRH as an emergency. Many people have suffered from different challenges during the lockdown. The lack of access to get family planning pills, condoms, or counseling remains a great challenge.
PSI has looked for ways of availing the services. Young people can use the methods and they are all okay. Most youth have not reached a point of supporting a family. Many have sex for pleasure, for that reason the services are availed at a more friendly service
The idea of safe sex is not talked about. It is important for two adults to consent to having safe sex. Often, women do not get to participate in the decision-making process. Yet if they did, they would be more cautious to use sexual reproductive health services since they affect them the more. It is all based on the agreement between two parties.
Sexual consent means that you agree to have sex with someone. This could include touch or penetration. Short of that, it could easily tantamount to rape. Consent means that you have to let the other person know.
Consent does not have to be verbal. The body language too is considered. Both parties should not be under any influence. Consent also means that it is reversible. When one changes their mind, it should be respected. Partners should be able to communicate and agree.
Most of the local police posts have been overwhelmed with cases and many are incapacitated to handle GBV cases. Many of the officers do not know what to do. There are fewer GBV cases being reported compared to those happening. Some people do not even know that they are victims. They do not even know where to report them.
At PSI, we co-create and co-design with the young people the programs we intend for them. That way, we learn from them. We try to understand how these innovations can be of help to them. Platforms like Yo Space brand was co-designed with young people who are the direct beneficiaries of our services.
Our social media platforms of Yo Space and PSI are open in case one needs to contact us. We also endeavor to upload accurate information that can be used for helping one be better informed. We also have a USSD code that we use on airtel. You dial 161 and send us your questions. We will be more than glad to help.