TORN APART with BOYD PHIRI
DID I hear that there is a shortage of condoms? Now isnâ€™t this interesting? I mean, how often do you hear about such scarcities, let alone see adults queueing for condoms at health centres and outlets in the hood?
Of course, you are familiar with fuel, water and beer shortages, but not condoms.
Just in case youâ€™re wondering where this is coming from, the Zambia Medical Association recently observed that there was a shortage of condoms in HIV-related organisations and hospitals, and the organisationâ€™s president, Aaron Mujajati, expressed worry about the situation.
Could this mean that there are more people pushing their virility to a whole new level now than before?
Or does this mean that more people are now afraid of the damaging effect of not taking a shower with a raincoat as they try to keep in trim sexually?
One supposes it would be amusing to see statistics of people who have come to like making a roll in the hay using the latex material or what some people in the hood have come to know in Nyanja lingo as mphila.
But, for Godâ€™s sake, donâ€™t try to meddle in peopleâ€™s conjugal rights by going door-to-door to count possible couples that use the treated rubber in the hood.
And speaking of the situation in the hood, perhaps this is why nowadays I do not often see children blowing used condoms picked from backyards.
I am not suggesting that some adults in the hood are now recycling condoms, which wouldnâ€™t be a bad idea given the reported shortage, but the truth is, children are probably wondering why â€˜free balloonsâ€™ are no longer easy to find.
Forget about them not knowing how these used condoms they mistake for balloons find themselves in their backyards.
You should see how women react to the embarrassing moment when they see youngsters playing around with used condoms.
They would disgustedly steal glances at the improvised balloons while complaining in tones which suggest that the children are better off frolicking with used car tires than used condoms.
â€œAba bana baza tionesa malozaâ€ the women would say to themselves in Nyanja meaning â€œWhat a taboo these children are exposing us to.â€
â€œCanâ€™t these children stop playing with used condoms? Donâ€™t they know that it is unhygienic?â€ they would say.
This is a common refrain among women in the hood each time they come across children displaying something considered secret â€“ only fit to be seen by adults in the private room.
Obviously, telling the children that the used latex materials are a by-product of ecstatic moments between the sheets would sound more taboo than resignedly seeing them playing with the rubbers.
If you try to tell them the truth about condoms thinking they would stop playing with them, they would probably laugh so hard before running away in the hood singing a common song saying â€œakazi nalume chingelengele pa ofesiâ€, a Nyanja expression taunting a romantic situation between a man and woman.
In fact, growing up in the 70s in Lusakaâ€™s Matero township, we took this behaviour to ridiculous levels each time we saw a couple spooning on the streets.
But that was then â€“ and we did not play with used condoms, although we had a vague idea that prostitutes used rubbers to prevent pregnancies.
But the hood, being what it is, you would discover that the youngsters already know what the condoms are used for, which is why they make game of condoms.
This is the reason why some adults in down-trodden areas like the idea of throwing used condoms in pit latrines â€“ maybe as a way of adhering to a medical instruction usually printed on packages of prescription drugs which say â€œkeep out of reach of childrenâ€.
But, on the other hand, I wouldnâ€™t encourage couples to throw condoms in pit latrines.
Donâ€™t think the rubber would break down in a few yearsâ€™ time. I mean, why give archeologists 500 years later an idea about the kind of sexual behaviours our generation exhibited while on earth?
My worry is that if people in the hood continue throwing condoms in pit latrines, 1,000 years to come archeologists would dig them out and fill their museums with 21st century used condoms.
But of course, they would not determine whether at one point in time people in the hood experienced a shortage of condoms.
However, any form of shortage is an inconvenience, and the scarcity of condoms is not an exception.
I wonder what sex workers and their clients would do about it. I guess, going by the saying that â€œwhen the going gets tough, the tough get goingâ€, the call girls would pull through this condom recession.
Not that I am interested in ordering more condoms from Malaysia, the worldâ€™s largest condom-producing country, to satisfy the demand, but the point is, sex business is rife in the hood â€“ and probably some adults wouldnâ€™t mind recycling used condoms.
After all, it is important to use condoms. Havenâ€™t you heard Burning Youthâ€™s safe sex advocacy song where their lead singer, Michael Kumwenda encourages adults not to feel uncomfortable when buying condoms because it is the same as buying bread?
I hope the shortage, as observed by the Medical Association of Zambia, would not last long. Health centres involved in antiretroviral therapy need enough supplies to enable people to avoid re-infections and sexually transmitted diseases.
TORN APART with BOYD PHIRI