ANY talk of family planning to men usually ignites heated debate be it in a family set-up or in the workplace with the general view being that the use of contraceptives is women’s business and men who use them are regarded as weaklings.
Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede torched a storm when he recently told a church gathering that he was pained his “little daughter must go on contraceptives”.
He said condoms and other birth control measures interfered with the natural process created by God.
Mudede said Zimbabwe, whose population is around 12 million, should freely reproduce and multiply.
Commonly known contraceptive methods in Zimbabwe include birth bills, injections and condoms. However, use of vasectomy by men is hardly raised during discussions.
Last week, Population Services International (PSI) Zimbabwe Matabeleland North productive health and family planning officer Tafadzwa Vengai said the promotion of the use of vasectomy had found no takers.
Vasectomy is the surgical sterilisation of a male person.
The operation prevents sperm travelling out of the testicles and into the semen.
If there is no sperm in the semen, it is impossible for conception to take place.
The operation does not involve removing the testicles and does not affect a man’s ability to produce semen.
Vengai made the comments during a National Aids Council Matabeleland North stakeholders’ meeting in Bulawayo.
That sparked a heated debate among men who rejected vasectomy arguing that it was not part of their culture and it caused virility while others viewed it as a form of castration.
Renowned culturist Pathisa Nyathi said culturally, vasectomy was taboo and “castrated men are viewed as useless in the society”.
“From an African perspective, that procedure is taboo and there are countless perceptions linked to it. It’s true that vasectomy is surrounded with little understanding hence people say it’s castration. Which men would want to be castrated,” Nyathi said.
“Men pride themselves in being bulls with that ability to replicate themselves, but if that ability is taken away, they are just like an ox or useless.”
Nyathi said society looks down upon “castrated” men and their “ego, self-esteem is injured”.
According to research, once performed, vasectomy cannot be reversed although there are rare cases effectively condemning those that would have undertaken it to permanent virility.
Ordinary citizens chipped in saying while vasectomy could be part of family planning, the government would struggle to persuade men to accept it.
“It’s hardly promoted at health centres as a family planning method. All the burden or focus is on females, but there are contraceptive methods for men which have fewer complications and are much more reliable,” Gift Ncube said.
“There is need for government to support male-friendly family planning programmes to help debunk the myths surrounding the use of contraceptives.
“But we (men) do not need such western concepts. We have condoms for family planning that also protect us from being infected with sexually transmitted diseases.
“But we also doubt if there are sufficient qualified people to carry out the procedure. No sane men can opt for that [vasectomy]. You cannot just say I am done with child bearing so I dismember my manhood,” Ncube said.
Others were of the view that vasectomy should instead be performed on rapists to send a message to would be rapists.
Women’s organisations have long been pushing for stiffer penalties against rapists as a deterrent.
“The women’s organisations should be the ones extending their efforts to push for vasectomy to be performed on rapists. That vasectomy is castration and no man wants to be castrated,” one Bulawayo resident said.
Research indicates that a man would still have sperm in his vas tubes for some time after the operation.
It may take as many as 16 ejaculations to clear.
About two months after the vasectomy, the man would have to take a sample of his semen to a pathology laboratory for testing and use another form of contraception such as condoms until the pathology tests show his semen has no sperm in it.
A small number of men experience bleeding or infection after a vasectomy.
Occasionally, sperm can leak from the ends of the cut tubes and produce small, hard lumps at the site of the operation. With time, this can occasionally lead to spontaneous rejoining of the tubes.