LOW condom use by men has led to alarming rates of unintended and teenage pregnancies in Mafeteng and Maseru districts, a new report has revealed.
According to an annual national report by non-profit organisation, Sesotho Media and Development (SM&D), 70 percent of males interviewed in a survey in the two districts do not use condoms.
SM&D uses the media to engage communities on social development issues.
A total of 354 youth from eight villages – six from Maseru district and two from Mafeteng district – were interviewed for the SM&D’s national advocacy report.
The report identified teenage pregnancy, early marriages, sexual abuse and child labour as some of the major challenges facing young people in the two districts.
Speaking during the recent launch of this year’s report, the SM&D youth facilitator for the ‘Pleasure Project’, Molemo Mphasa, said condom use is very low among men and this is worrying.
Mr Mphasa said men have more power over women and they usually decide on whether to use protection during sex or not. This contributes to teenage pregnancies and HIV.
“Men mostly initiate sex and make decisions on whether to go for safe or unprotected sex. They also decide on usage of sexual reproductive health services and products.
“Our survey showed that about 70 percent of the males interviewed do not use condoms. And also in general, females have less power in sexual relationships,” he said.
For his part, the SM&D senior lead facilitator, Tankiso Rabolinyane, said that discussing sex is still a taboo in Lesotho.
He said lack of access to sexual reproductive health services, especially in remote areas, was also responsible for unintended and teenage pregnancies.
It was not easy for inexperienced girls to access contraceptives.
Mr Rabolinyane said this was worsened by poor communication between the teenage girls and their parents who do not approve of them using contraceptives.
“Our aim is to equip old school parents with knowledge so that they see the need for them to create conducive environments for youth to talk about sex and contraceptives,” Mr Rabolinyane said.
According to a 2020 report, the HIV prevalence amongst adolescent girls from the time they reach 15 years of age begins to significantly increase.
It says between the age of 20 and 30 the prevalence in females is roughly four to five times higher than in males.
“The core reason given for this disparity is mainly due to the socio-cultural context also governing how sexual relationships are normally conducted.
“In general, females have less power in sexual relationships, meaning the males are seen as sex initiators. They are normally the decision makers on safe sex or unprotected sex. This also includes deciding on usage of sexual reproductive health and rights services and products.”
The report further says that consent in relationships to sex is still shrouded by sociocultural myths and misconceptions which leave youth vulnerable to committing offences without realising its criminal.
Only 30% of the male participants in the SM&D survey indicated they enjoy sex with a condom, while the remining 70% said they do not enjoy sex with a condom.
On the other hand, 78,6% of females interviewed said they enjoyed sex with condoms while the remaining 21,4% said they don’t.
Teenage pregnancy and child marriage form 50 percent of the challenges affecting youth in the two districts, the report says.
Sexual abuse and child labour constituted 26 percent of their challenges.
The least cited challenges affecting youth are human trafficking, and domestic violence, according to the report.
A United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) report says that one in every three women in the country experience some type of sexual abuse in their lifetime.