The correlation between ending early marriages and the provision of SRHR services

Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), is an umbrella term for human rights as applied to sexuality and reproduction. It is a combination of sexuality, health rights and reproductive rights and justice. In order for us to successfully reduce and ultimately end child marriages we need to be able to recognise the role that SRHR and Comprehensive Sexual Education has in it.

 

Before you go off on a ‘sex education spoils children’s mind’s’ bender, think of this; the regions with the highest amount of teenage pregnancy rates according to an article published by The Namibian on the 1 st of November 2019 are Kavango East followed by Oshana, Ohangwena, Omusati and Oshikoto. These regions are also some of Namibia’s most rural areas meaning that the provision of basic services are relatively low in these areas. These services include SRH services and Information Communication and Technology services meaning Namibian girls are disadvantaged in accessing the necessary services and information regarding sexuality and their health rights but they are also not accessing the correct information regarding child marriages and how to avoid and report them.

 

Teenage pregnancy acts as a driver to child marriages. Young girls are often forced into marrying the men who have impregnated them not only in attempt to provide for themselves and their infants but also to reduce the stigma and embarrassment that comes with being an unmarried, young single mother. If we are able to as a nation increase the provision of SRH services such as contraception and provide adequate and relevant information on issues surrounding sexuality we will be able to reduce the rates of child marriages.

 

Namibia has not only failed in recognizing the role that SRHR and Comprehensive Sexual Education plays in Early Marriages, we have also allowed individual beliefs to dictate the collective information given to our girls in their schools and surroundings and the young girls who are caught in a cycle of early marriages, early births and ultimately poverty are the ones paying for it.

 

Comprehensive sexual education gives young women the freedom to decide whether, when and with whom to engage in sexual  relationships with. It also provides them with the option to consent to a marriage and be able to choose the time and spacing of the number of children that they desire to have. This also removes the option of having parents or older community leader’s pressure young women into early marriages in attempt to control the sexuality and preserve their
virginities.

 

As young women, feminists and feminist movements, we need to ensure that we are contributing positively in this fight to end Early Marriages. We need to work towards creating programmes and spaces that provide the correct information regarding child marriages, how to report them, what young girls should do if they are being forced into one and also give them the much needed knowledge on SRHR and how to better take care of themselves. These spaces need to be offered to our most rural parts, as they are more susceptible to such. We need to, as we are marching, protesting and challenging the system demand better services and holdour system accountable for its lack of interest in ensuring that our girl’s futures are safe.

 

The more educated our young girls are on these issues the better decisions they are able to make for their lives, the easier it becomes to call out early marriages, the less the chances of them being roped into one are, and even when they do, the better they can take care of themselves. Bottom line is a young woman who is well educated on issues surrounding her sexuality is an empowered woman and ultimately a free and safe woman.

 

Writer’s information

Name: Thrive Vinomaandero Mahua
Contact details: vinokiemahua@gmail.com
Project: YFEM Namibia Opinion pieces on Ending Child Marriages


 
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