Editor's Comment

Family planning at age of 10?

THE news coming out of Zambia’s tourism capital, Livingstone, on child delinquency should be food for thought for the entire nation.
When children as young as 10 years old begin receiving family planning contraceptives such as pills and injections, it means there is a serious problem.
An official from the Livingstone district medical office, Habben Kolala, says health institutions are attending to girls seeking family planning services.
Mr Kolala told participants at a workshop that there has been an increase in the number of children aged between 10 and 15 years seeking family planning services at health institutions.
This is a serious matter that requires a multi-pronged approach to effectively deal with.
Firstly, it must be collectively agreed that Zambia has a problem because it is not logically and morally and possibly legally right to have such young children on contraceptives.
It, however, has to be acknowledged that our children are sexually active. This is evidenced by the many cases of underage and premarital pregnancies in our communities.
Some of these cases are resolved in courts of law, but there must be many others that end quietly, and often to the disadvantage of the girls.
The challenge, therefore, is to balance the moral issue with that of the reality that children are sexually active. This is a delicate balance that could go horribly wrong if poorly handled.
There can’t be a standard solution for each girl, so all those concerned about the welfare of these children must take each case on its own merit, if any.
Ideally, underage children should not engage in sex and parents are key in ensuring this is so. This is no easy task, it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure that children wait for “the right time”.
Parents should work towards developing morally upright children. In the past this responsibility lay with grandparents, but with the extended family system dying, the duty is on the father and mother to impart this knowledge.
Unfortunately many children, including girls, do not get such wise counsel. Instead they get often tainted “sex education” from their peers.
Sometimes, schools provide this information but it can never be as  effective as that which a parent or a close relative provides.
With half-baked information and at times none at all, some of these girls begin to indulge in sex but also get “well informed” that they can avoid pregnancies by taking contraceptives.
Even with sexual education for schoolchildren tailored to our socio-cultural environment and our Christian nation status, the girls, and boys, do the very things they are told to keep away from.
But it must also be noted that it is not only children in school who are indulging but it is widespread.
The questions then are: is it right to have girls as young as 10 years old on contraceptives? If so, who should be giving them these contraceptives?
Many are bound to say it is wrong to put the girls on contraceptives because they shouldn’t be having sex in the first place. The reality though is that they are having sex and they could get pregnant.
An even more serious question is: who is having sex with these underage girls?
Since it is acknowledged that they are having sex, it is a fact t hat they are victims of defilement.
Those that give out these contraceptives must also consider these girls as their children.  Would they honestly do what they are doing to their child with a clear conscience?
They should also take it upon themselves to find out who the sex partners are and to report these to the police.
If these girls are being taken to the health centres by their mothers, such parents must be interrogated too.
This will not only help protect the girls from abuse, but could also help check the apparent rampant sex activity.
This is not an easy matter to deal with.  Neither can it be resolved overnight, if at all, but with the right decisions at the right time.

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