Resisting the urge to rush in

2013-10-02 00:00

I AM little surprised that the report showing that almost 30 000 schoolgirls in South Africa quit school in 2012 because they were pregnant, did not get more excitement than it deserved.

I was particularly taken aback by a quote by Bonginkosi Gumede, a school principal at an unnamed school in rural KwaZulu-Natal in the Mail & Guardian: “We have lots of girls who fall pregnant here.

“Some drop out for six months, then they come back, but most do not come back. They become mothers, they stay at home, they never learn more,” said Gumede.

My mind raced, thinking of a solution I could recommend to fix the problem.

It was not long before I realised that I was about to do what I stridently criticise others for doing. It is ultimately up to the various communities and families to decide what is best for their daughters.

I am often baffled by how the same people who claim to act and speak in the name of disempowered women are the first to discard the ideas of the same women if their thoughts are not in line with their own ideological or even religious positions, especially if the women are deemed to lack the sophistication assumed from being fluent in English.

Respect for women’s rights must stretch to respecting that women might make choices that in our eyes seem backwards or entrench patriarchy.

In a nutshell, I am happy for rural communities who, as is the case with Gumede’s school, are at their wits end trying to secure a future for their children, to do whatever they honestly believe will work best.

Whether that is better sex education, a chastity belt, virginity testing or an appeal to holy texts or whatever else they think, is fine by me.

I am, of course, well aware that some of the measures I have mentioned involve young women specifically, and say nothing about the men (some young, others sugar daddies) who impregnate the young women and the girls.

It would be fantastic if the men involved with the young women took responsibility for their actions.

But unfortunately, whether they do the right thing or whether they do not, it is the young women who are left holding the baby.

That is why I feel it is entirely up to them and those who care about them, to protect them from the dubious intentions of the men who prey on their innocence or even poverty.

I am not letting men get off lightly. But it is like making a decision to walk in a dark alley in the rough part of town.

In theory, all of us have a right to walk where we want, whenever we want, or even to sleep with our windows open so we have some fresh air.

But when others choose not to respect that right, it becomes incumbent on those who are likely to be prejudiced to do what they can to protect themselves from the vile among us, at least until human civilisation becomes a reality.

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