SHE bounced onto the scene through a sex tape, but it is her sexuality that has won over the world.
THE CENTRE SPREAD by PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
Disgusted at first, Zimbabweans hid their faces in shame as Pokello Nare’s sex tape went viral on social media networks.
For the first time in Zimbabwe, sex was brought right into almost every household through WhatsApp, the social network application that moves text, audio and video around the world in an instant for next to nothing.
Zimbabweans were quick to protest. It was against our culture, they said, she is watching too much American television.
She is a bad influence on our children, and so on.
Then she went on reality television, Big Brother Africa, The Chase, and she stole everyone’s heart except perhaps that of the coldest puritans. The debate quickly changed.
Sex seamlessly changed to sexuality and Zimbabweans were proud of her, rooting for her all the way.
Although she didn’t clinch the big prize, Zimbabweans were impressed; her own father said he didn’t mind the explicit sex tape.
Africa too embraced her; she is betrothed to a Ghanaian and her clothing line seems to have taken off quite well.
What is sex; what is sexuality?
Sex >>> Physical act of sexual intimacy
Sexuality >>> A significant aspect of a person’s life, from birth to death, consisting of many interrelated factors, including anatomy, growth and development, gender, relationships, behaviours, attitudes, values, self-esteem, sexual health, reproduction, and more.
The Pokello story showed Zimbabweans are disgusted by explicit sex because they think it should be private, but it also woke the country to the power of sexuality.
There was Pokello on their screens, confident, full of self-esteem and she had attitude.
But the story also showed that Zimbabwe needed comprehensive sexuality education in schools because adolescents have a tendency to confuse sex with sexuality hence the average age of first sex has dropped in recent times.
But this trend has brought up a number of health issues.
Q The question is: What can be done to promote the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents?
Zimbabwe, like the rest of the world, is experiencing an upsurge in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and worryingly the majority of the new infections are among adolescents, according to published records.
This growing phenomenon is not only a threat to that generation, but also affects the economy as more resources have to be channelled towards preventable diseases and millions of productive man-hours are lost each year as the youths seek medication or unfortunately die of these diseases.
National Aids Council (NAC) in its third quarter report released in December 2013 shows the growth in STI infections across the country with Masvingo province being the worst hit.
NAC in its report noted that new STI infections in the third quarter of 2013 (July to September) had increased to 11 342 cases compared to 10 133 in the second quarter.
The report further disegregated the statistic to show that over 60% of the infected persons were females.
Among the infected 7 337 were women while males accounted for 4 005 cases, the report noted.
The statistics in Zimbabwe reveal a global trend as a research in United States showed that new infections were mainly recorded among youths.
Weinstock, Berman and Cates Jnr (2004) in their report: Sexual Transmitted Diseases Among American Youths Incidence and Prevalence found out that young people aged 15–24 years acquire nearly half of all new STIs.
They also discovered that compared with older adults, sexually active adolescents aged 15–19 years and young adults aged 20–24 years are at higher risk of acquiring STIs for a combination of behavioural, biological, and cultural reasons.
This development calls for a holistic response from the government and individual persons to be more responsible about their sexual knowledge and activities.
Benefits of sex education
THE government is being urged by various stakeholders to come up with a comprehensive sexuality education programme in its curriculum. Tamisayi Chinhengo, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) adolescent sexual reproductive health programme specialist says reversing the trend where teenagers between 15 and 19 years get infected with STIs needs comprehensive sexuality education.
She said comprehensive sexuality education is about an age appropriate, culturally relevant approach to teaching about sex and relationships by providing scientifically accurate, realistic, non-judgmental information.
An integrated action plan for young people
Sexuality education also provides opportunities to explore one’s own values and attitudes and to build decision-making, communication and risk reduction skills about many aspects of sexuality.
According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) (2010/2011) women were engaging in sex and entering into marriage, on average, earlier than their male counterparts. The average age at first sex encounter was 18,9 years for women while it was 20,6 for men.
The difference increased to nearly 5 years between women and men when they would enter into marriage.
Average age at first marriage was 19,7 years for women while it stood at a higher 24,8 years for men.
Both Zimbabwean women and men it was found out, typically initiate sexual activity before marriage.
HIV prevalence among the youth is on average 5,5%, however, women are affected more than men.
The rate was 7,3% for women while for men it was significantly lower at 3,6%.
However, it should also be noted that the differences in sexual behaviours is not limited to sexes (male/female), but also extended to geographical location among the women. The ZDHS report reveals that there was a significant difference in fertility rate between women in the same age group in urban areas and rural areas.
“Fertility rate for 15-19: 71 births/1 000 girls in urban areas and 144 births/1 000 rural girls,” it states.
Chinhengo said sexuality in the media was also portrayed in a manner that is misleading to many youths. “The media portrays beauty as a narrow and limited idea, but beautiful people come in all shapes, sizes, colours, and abilities,” she said.
Sexual education, Chinhengo argues, should also consider customs and values of the children as these differ among families.
The best decision, she says, is usually one that is consistent with one’s own values and does not involve risking one’s own or others’ health and safety.
The UNFPA says that comprehensive sexuality education programmes have been associated with positive health outcomes among the youth like reduced rates of teen pregnancy, reduced rates of STIs and reduced rates of HIV.
Chinhengo concluded that:
“Comprehensive sexuality education programmes have been associated with positive behaviour change among youth like the postponement or delay of sexual initiation, reduction in frequency of sexual intercourse, reduction in the number of sexual partners/increase in monogamy and an increase in the use of effective methods of contraception, including condoms.”
These programmes should be scaled up in Zimbabwe as some of the benefits have been seen through the works of UN agencies and non-governmental organisations working in Sexual and Reproductive Health for Adolescents and Youths across the country. ZDHS noted that young people going for HIV testing was increasing, but more importantly women had higher percentage in proportion to sexual activity as revealed earlier.
“45% (21% in 2005/6) young women and 24% (12% in 2005/6) young men were tested for HIV and received their results in the 12 months preceding the survey,” the report said.