Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sexual taboos and HIV/AIDS in Africa

To talk about sex in some African cultures can be equated with cursing at the church. Sex is simply not discussed. It is believed that good families do not discuss this issue. In fact, to discuss sex with older adults is considered a sign of promiscuity. Childhood sexual curiosity and questions are learned from one's peers. With the availability of technology, most sexual information is now gleaned from the western media, and of course from the internet.
In Africa, there are so many sexual taboos because sex is believed to be private between the man and woman. It is believed that sex is strictly for married couples. Sexual practices are attributed to the dictation of the religion and individual cultural norms. Anything that deviates from these reasons is evil and bad. However, sexual taboos are practiced secretly with very adverse consequences - HIV/AIDS, rapes and pedophilia.
In Africa, HIV/AIDS infections and mortality is an epidemic. One of the sexual taboos that still contribute to the proliferation of this deadly virus is homosexuality. This sexual preference is so taboo that even speculation of it is grounds for societal taunting, punishment, alienation and even death for not only the homosexual individual, but for his/her family too. In Nigeria, homosexuality is considered unnatural, unacceptable, ungodly, taboo, evil, and sign of a poor upbringing.
Male homosexuals are not considered "real men". In a patriarch society like Nigeria, they will not be taken seriously, and their opinions will not be considered important. Real African men have to prove their masculinity by marrying and producing children. They have to show their manliness by marrying as many wives that their religion or culture will allow them to have. As for women, they have to get married and have children to be considered a "real women". This is important because women have rights in Nigeria only through their husbands or male children. For instance, a barren woman will encourage her husband to get married to another woman so that they can have children. Unmarried women and lesbians are ridiculed privately and publicly, and can be at risk for rape. Many African homosexuals will rather die than admit to their sexual orientation because of this societal label.
Due to this stigma and threat of death in some cases, homosexuals are forced into loveless marriages, secret double lives, and condemned to life of unhappiness. In some cases, their sexual partners are prostitutes of the same gender willing to do the sexual act for money, drug and alcohol addicts, household servants, and unfortunately, children. As one can imagine, some of these sexual acts are unprotected. These homosexual individuals will then go home to their wives/husbands to have unprotected sex, hence infecting them and their unborn children. Some homosexuals unwilling to live this double secret life, will commit suicide, move to western countries where they will be accepted, or continue with their deadly sexual practices. As a result, HIV/AIDS continues to flourish uncontrollably in Africa.
Even though we condemn the United States media for publicly and inappropriately exhibiting and extolling sexuality in our everyday lives, we should use the opportunity to teach our children about sex, importance of protected sex, abstinence, different sexual preferences, importance of tolerance, and the outcomes of having any type of sex.

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