There is a modern saying when a couple learn that they have a baby on the way – “We are pregnant”. It is a comment that really irritates me. THEY are not pregnant, the woman is pregnant and they are expecting a child. There are many times when I have thought that men should go through not only pregnancy but other annoying things such as menstruation and menopause. As has been noted by others, both these 2 words start with ‘men’ but they do not have to endure what they bring.
It is not the fact that it is the woman who has to endure these discomforts, (all because she picked an apple and gave it to her husband, according to the Bible). What the statement ‘we are pregnant’ clearly indicates is that there are two people involved. It is this issue I want to consider. Why do the young men who impregnate young women suffer no consequences but continue with their lives as if all is quite normal?
South Africa is known to have an exceedingly high rate of teenage pregnancy. According to the Mail & Guardian 40% of all pregnancies in South Africa are those of girls younger than 19 and up to 35% of all girls will have given birth by the time they reach that age. South Africa’s health ministry recently released statistics showing that almost 5,000 schoolgirls in Johannesburg became pregnant in just one school year! A government study showed that teenage mothers are concentrated among those with only primary education (38.5%) but declines progressively among those with some secondary education (12.9%),Grade 12 (7.9%) and those with higher education (4.0%). According to a study many girls who fall pregnant consider education very important but do not receive the support they need to be able to complete their schooling. It is more likely that they will endure misunderstandings and pressure from family and other groups. There are many stories of young girls disposing of their babies in rubbish bins and toilets as they just cannot cope. My domestic worker took in a young boy 25 years ago because his teenage mother did not know what to do with him and her mother refused to care for him. He was left on the roadside while the girl-mother went to school. Although the law says that pregnant girls cannot be expelled from school, it does happen. If they are allowed to stay in school the teachers and fellow students often belittle them or cast them aside. Their own parents and other family members will reject them as it is seen that they have been naughty and now created another mouth to feed.
Why do so many girls fall pregnant? The Mail and Guardian write that possible reasons for the high rates of teenage pregnancy include insufficient sex education due to conservatism at home and some schools, availability of pornography, peer pressure and the use of drugs and alcohol. In addition, there is the shocking level of rape in South Africa leading to 11%-20% of all teenage pregnancies. Many girls are lured and coerced by older men who offer money and a fancy lifestyle. In a study by the Planned Parenthood Association, 1 in 5 boys admitted to forcing girls to have sex and up to 30% of these encounters resulted in pregnancy.
My question is ‘Where are the boys in these situations?’ As the saying goes, ‘it takes two to Tango’ and to make a baby. One of my favourite quotes is from Mark Twain: ‘Familiarity breeds contempt – and children.’ The boys who impregnate the girls seem to suffer no consequences. In fact, they often have multiple partners increasing the chances of pregnancy, HIV and other STD infections. One shudders to think how many half-brothers and sisters there are in a community and no one knows who they are. The boys should be named and shamed just as the girls suffer the stigma. They should be required to assist in the parenting of the child, not just financially, but in care as well. The boys get to complete their education and so the cycle of men being at the top of business etc will continue as long as girls are discriminated against in this way.
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