LUSAKA, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- The showing of adverts in both print and electronic media on contraceptives methods for young people has sparked debate in Zambia.
While some have not seen anything wrong in the information being shown targeting young people, others feel this is a degradation of moral values in the country as such information should be preserved for married people.
"It is outrightly unacceptable in our Zambian culture to encourage any form of sexual activities and remedies amongst unmarried young people whether sexually active or not. Not only is it culturally offensive but against our Christian faith. First, it was the introduction of comprehensive sexuality education in schools, now we have a campaign encouraging the same young people to use contraceptives," Jackson Silavwe, president of the opposition Golden Party, said in a release.
The opposition leader, who has called for the immediate withdrawal of the adverts, said the adverts are a sign that Zambians are slowly losing their identity and called on the ministry responsible for national guidance and religious affairs to rise to the occasion and prevent the decay of the country's cultural values.
Amos Mwale, executive director of the Center for Reproductive Health and Education in Zambia, however, has defended the adverts, saying the messages being disseminated are creating awareness among the young people on how they can take care of themselves.
The messages, he said, are providing information that will enhance productivity as the lives of young people will be preserved instead of dying from preventable occurrences like unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted diseases.
The debate comes at a time when the country records about 93,000 unborn babies out of both safe and unsafe abortions. This was revealed by Caren Chizuni, chief safe motherhood officer in the Ministry of Health, during a media workshop on sexual reproductive rights.
She told reporters that the alarming number of abortions is due to inadequate access to contraceptives, forcing women and young people to have unwanted pregnancies. She expressed concerns that unsafe abortions were costing government huge sums of money in treating complications that occur.
Zambians have since taken to social media to express their views on whether it is appropriate to direct contraceptive messages at young unmarried people.
Mwaala Nawa has blamed the government for allowing some non-governmental organizations to start contraceptive messages targeting young people.
"These people only consider the benefit of their pockets instead of people's lives. Indeed it's a shame to see our culture and belief being replaced by evil," he said.
He has been supported by Elijah Bwale, who feels that the country risk losing its values and morals due to embracing alien concepts.
According to him, it is unfortunate that society has been brainwashed to accept anything alien, adding that it is time to rise up and protect the country's culture. He noted that it was taboo in the past to expose young to sexual messages.
Others, however, have defended the adverts, saying there is nothing wrong as young people still engage in sexual activities even without being exposed to sexual messages.
"The advert is ok. Those are measures just to reduce abortions. Dumping of babies in sewer, street kids and rubbish pits can be avoided," Thomas Sakala said.
Sarah Mulubwa says contraception is and will continue to be part of modern-day culture, adding that contraceptives should be provided for all regardless of age in order to protect people from negative outcomes.
Lewis Sampa says the messages of abstinence have been preaching in the country but nothing has changed as young people have continued engaging in unprotected sex resulting in unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
"Contraceptives and promoting safe sex are good moves. Times have changed now. No one will practice abstinence and very few have safe sex," he said.
The issue of whether to promote contraceptives messages targeting is appropriate or not will remain a thorny issue.
Human rights lawyer Namuchana Mushabati, however, believes that there is a need for enhanced awareness on sexual reproductive health issues.
The lawyer, who was speaking at the media workshop on sexual reproductive rights, said there is a need for concerted efforts from all stakeholders to openly discuss sexual reproductive issues especially among young people. Enditem