Campaign: Say no to sugar daddies

2012-01-13 00:00

THE KZN Health Department has embarked on a billboard campaign to dissuade young girls from getting involved with older men — so-called “sugar daddies”.

“Our message to families and communities is: Don’t let your loved ones get involved with a sugar daddy and to the girls: Don’t get involved with a sugar daddy,” said department spokesperson Chris Maxon.

He said a number of studies “agree that young girls [14 to 25] are four times more at risk of acquiring HIV than their male peers of the same age. The sexual debut for girls is as low as 12 years and mostly coerced, and we know that, in this pro­vince, 10% of all births are to teenagers,” said Maxon.

He said young girls line national roads at night offering sex for pay to truck drivers, while media reports on teachers impregnating pupils and/or parents dropping statutory rape cases in favour of “umqhoyiso” (a penalty for de-flowering a teenager or virgin in Zulu custom) were rampant.

“These facts are not news to South Africans, especially Africans. We now know that 99% of males [14 to 20] who come forward for male circumcision are HIV negative,” said Maxon.

However, among girls of the same age, the prevalence is 10%.

“Now if these girls were sleeping with their male peers they would only get pregnant. But they become pregnant and also get HIV,” said Maxon, concluding that the men who make them pregnant and infect them had to be older.

“A sugar daddy refers to relationships between older men and younger women. In most cross-generational relationships, young women are usually below age 20 and their male partners at least 10 years older,” he said.

He said the billboards, one of which can be seen at the main Sweetwaters taxi rank, are part of a bigger campaign to be launched by MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo on January 19 at Hlabisa.

“The campaign’s goal is to achieve zero new HIV infections among the 14- to 20-year-old girls by reducing cross-generational sex,” added Maxon.

JOAN van Niekerk, Childline South Africa manager for training and advocacy, said research indicates that billboards are not an effective way of getting a message across, particularly if one is wanting to change behaviour and attitudes.

“The prevention of teenage pregnancy requires a change in behaviour from the sugar daddies themselves, as well as a change in attitude to the issue of sexual entitlement and the exploitation of young girls,” she said.

What is needed is:

• Poverty alleviation

• An effective system of encouraging men to pay maintenance

• Life skills training to adolescents, particularly boys as men are usually, but not always, the exploiters

• Active targeting of exploitive men — prosecution where the girl is under age, which results in, not only a punitive response, but also a rehabilitative response as well

• Positive male role models, who are sexually faithful to partners and protective of young women, including politicians, actors, singers etc.

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