Faatimah Hendricks

Govt putting pleasure before periods

2016-09-05 13:04

Faatimah Hendricks

Having your period is not a comfortable experience. Unless you're one of the lucky ones, the mythical few who don't suffer any ill effects, most women can expect to experience stomach pain, back pain, headaches, mood swings and general discomfort in their bodies. Now imagine having to go through that and not even have anything to contain what's flowing out of your body.

Having your period is natural and completely out of your control, which is why it's sad to hear about young schoolgirls – especially those in poor areas - who have to skip class because they have no sanitary wear. Some use socks, rags and newspaper when it's that time of the month. It's unhealthy but what choice do they have when money's tight?

The call for pads to be made available freely (like condoms in public bathrooms and at clinics) is not a new one. But it's a call that government seems to not be taking the least bit seriously. Instead, they have decided to provide new and improved condoms because the old ones sucked.

According to deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, the Choice condoms which were made available by government for years, did not smell very nice and were noisy during intercourse. Ramaphosa, who pitched Max condoms like cheap marketing, said new Max condoms provided “maximum pleasure and protection” and were silent, so your sensual grunts and moans would never be interrupted by the awkward squeaking of rubber again. There's nothing wrong with a well-made condom and people would generally prefer not to relive the great condom recalls of 2007 and 2012.

But, the deputy president seemed more concerned with sexual pleasure instead of protection against sexually transmitted infections. It would have made sense to switch manufacturers after the two faulty batches and the government could have raised a concern about quality instead of pleasure and noise.

This seems like an unnecessary and, most likely, needlessly expensive exercise when the resources could have been used to provide sanitary wear to women in struggling communities. Yes, STD prevention is extremely important since South Africa already has the highest rate of HIV-infected people in the world. Two faulty batches aside, the Choice condoms seemed to be doing fine. If people didn't like them or wanted ribbed, extra thin, fruity flavoured latex instead, they're available everywhere, from petrol stations to pharmacies. If money is an issue, either use the squeaky condoms or abstain. Besides, since when do we get free luxury services from government? I wish I could say this was the start of something new, but it smells like another dodgy deal coming on the back of SA's businessmen-turned-politicians.

People can control their urges, or at least find healthier, safer ways to express them, but women can't control the way their bodies function. There are contraceptives available, such as an injection, that stop periods, which young girls are using to avoid having to buy pads. But why should girls use hormone-altering chemicals just to avoid getting their periods?

There are many organisations that work with young girls in impoverished communities by providing them with sanitary essentials. Their assistance goes a long way, but it would be even better if they had the backing of government. They'd be able to reach more women.

It is disappointing that with so many influential women in government, a collective decision was made to first introduce free, pleasure-enhancing condoms before pads. Women of South Africa should be able to rely on our female leaders to fight for us, but it seems they, too, are just as self-serving as their male counterparts.

- Faatimah Hendricks is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook and at selfwriteous.co.za.

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