You may have read about it in the newspapers last year, when Iyabo James, a 16 year old secondary school girl died from an abortion complication at the University Teaching Hospital.
Iyabo’s problem began when she realized that she was pregnant some weeks after she had sex with her boyfriend Seyi Ariyo on the night of the end-of-the-year party at their school. She told Seyi about the pregnancy and he denied responsibility, saying that any of the other boys whom he had seen their love letters with her could be responsible. He then advised her that, it was in her own best interest to get an abortion immediately.
Iyabo confided in her friend Ngozi who sympathised with her and offered to take her to a doctor who could help terminate the pregnancy. The doctor examined her and confirmed the pregnancy but requested for N500 to undertake the procedure. Unfortunately, N150 was all that Iyabo could raise and they were unable to persuade the doctor to perform the termination at that price.
Anne, Ngozi’s friend then suggested that they go and see a woman who could get rid of the pregnancy for much less. Iyabo was really scared and confused by now, but in the circumstances, she had no choice – if the school got to know, her parents would virtually kill her. So, she reluctantly went with her to this woman in Bariga who gave her some medication to drink, inserted some substances into her vagina and after a while, gave her abdomen a vigorous massage. The woman then assured her that she would begin menstruating the following morning.
About a week later, Iyabo became very ill, with a high fever and severe pain in her abdomen. Her parents tried all they could, giving anti-malaria medications and when she did not seem to get an better, they rushed her to the hospital where it was discovered that she was having a foul smelling vaginal discharge and that her womb had become septic. The doctors immediately placed her on the appropriate course of treatment but she still did not get any better. Seven days after she was admitted into hospital, Iyabo gave up the ghost.
Reports show that sexual activity among Nigerian teenagers is on the increase with as many as 7 out of every 10 males and 5 out of every 10 females attending secondary school being sexually active or having had sexual intercourse at least once. A particular study by A.U. Oronsaye and G.I. Odiase in Benin City showed that 55% of the secondary school girls had intercourse before they were 16 years old. Induced abortion has also been described as a school girl’s problem in Nigeria because over 60% of patients presenting at our hospitals with abortion related complications are teenage school girls.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) including AIDS are also on the increase among teenagers and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1 out of every 20 adolescents contracts an STD every year.
Unfortunately many sexually active teenagers would rather believe that they can never be infected, so they do not take any preventive measures. Take the case of Amechi and Martha who live on the same street in Ikeja. Amechi had been attracted to Martha for quite a while but never had the opportunity to date her. He felt she carried herself around with a great air of seriousness which made him feel so uneasy and he didn’t want to risk being turned down if he proposed to her. For a long time, he busied himself with a chain of other girls he was dating in their area. Finally, during the last long vacation, he mustered enough courage to approach her. Luckily for him, Martha agreed to be his girlfriend. In no time their friendship blossomed and they began to have a sexual relationship.
Soon after, Amechi noticed he was having a burning pain and discharge from his penis. He went to see the doctor at the local government health centre who examined him and told him he had gonorrhoea. He then placed him on medications. Amechi felt very terrible about the doctor’s diagnosis and he decided to confront Martha that afternoon. A heated argument ensued and many accusations and uncomplimentary comments were exchanged. At the end of it all, Amechi and Martha broke up and they haven’t been talking to each other ever since.
One really wonders, how many young people ever give a thought to the implications, when they decide to have sex? A decision to be sexually active implies:
- The possibility of getting pregnant and the huge responsibilities that come with parenthood.
- The likelihood of not being able to continue schooling in the case of a pregnant school girl and all the problems related to dropping out of school e.g. poor job opportunities.
- The possibility of losing self-esteem and respect among friends and family.
- The high possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted disease including AIDS.
- The health complications that arise especially when a teenager becomes pregnant and has to give birth to a baby.
- The complications and risks involved in procuring an abortion or terminating a pregnancy under unsafe conditions.
Sexual Decision Making
Despite an awareness of the implications many teenagers still find themselves engaging in casual and unsafe sex for one reason or the other. At a certain time in your life as an adolescent, you may be confronted with making the choice whether to be sexually active or not, that is assuming that you have not already had to make this decision. You have to get ready for this eventuality and ensure that you are not caught unprepared.
The Choice to Have Sex
Some of the reasons why young people choose to have sex are:
- To show affection and prove that they love their partner (boyfriend or girlfriend).
- They enjoy it and it makes them feel good.
- To show their mates and friends that they “understand” and to prove their masculinity/femininity.
- To get material rewards in exchange e.g. money, gifts, or good grades in school.
The Choice Not to Have Sex
Some of the reasons why teenagers choose not to have sex are:
- It is against their social/religious upbringing and personal, moral beliefs to have sex at this stage of their lives.
- They are not sure of their partner and would like to develop a stronger relationship before considering sex.
- They do not want to risk the consequences of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
- To test the endurance of their partner’s love beyond the phase of firs attraction.
Whenever you are faced with a situation where you have to decide, whatever choice you make will have implications that you have to live with for the rest of your life. Because of this, you have to think properly and keep in mind the following:
- Your body belongs to you; it is not anyone else’s property. As such, no one else has a claim over your body sexually or in any other way.
- You have a right to decide when and how you want to express your feelings to the extent that you do not infringe on any other person’s rights.
- You don’t have the right to have sex with another person unless that person makes it clear that he or she wants it too.
- You have the right to say “Yes” or “No” to sex.
- If you say “Yes” to sex, it is important that you think about using contraceptives and the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS.
- If you say “No” to sex, it is perfectly OKAY and there is no reason in the world why you should be ashamed about this decision.