We’d Rather Die Than Talk
Some conversations can save lives but burying our heads in the sand is so much easier
While hanging out with an old friend, I recently chanced upon a Facebook ad by a reputable clinic rumored to be the go-to place for abortions. To confirm the popularity of the rumor, I asked my friend if she knew anything about the clinic and she asked, “The one that facilitates abortions for young campus girls chap chap?” I wryly replied, “Yes, that one!” We laughed.
“Such institutions should be shut down. They are breeding grounds for immorality. Young girls can afford to mess around all they want because they know that they have a choice. It is just so wrong!” She continued. I was not shocked that she felt that way about abortion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Hers, as is most Kenyans’, is that abortion is immoral, evil and sinful. It also happens that the law, to a large extent, supports and reinforces those beliefs. To me, it is very unfortunate that a question of morality needs to be legislated.
The problem with Kenyans is that one’s opinion while in a crowd will often differ from one’s opinion as an individual, a fact that could never be more evident in our political affiliations before, during and after elections. We scream at the top of our lungs about how we want change, then scream at the top of our lungs in support of our candidate of choice (the most popular, most moneyed one who recently escaped corruption charges) and then complain that all they do is steal after we successfully get them into a higher office.
Heck, we even shout that abortion is a crime but secretly wish that it was more accessible!
Heck, we say it out loud that prostitution is evil but secretly wish that we would purchase the service more conveniently, not in some dingy places downtown!
Heck, we condemn homosexuality in the strongest terms but also know that there are married men and women who share a bed with their secret same-sex lovers before going home to their wives and husbands!
Instead of having these conversations and reach a feasible compromise, we would rather condemn the acts we still commit when day turns to night, when nobody is looking. It is like we have a coming-out problem as a nation.
We are a ‘righteous’ nation of hypocrites
First, we fail to give sex education the proper support it needs to lower cases of new HIV and STI transmissions and teenage and unplanned pregnancies. Then, we make condoms and other contraceptives conveniently inaccessible to teenagers and youth in a bid to not encourage immorality. Then, we criminalize abortions, forcing the young girls to go to alternative providers of the service chini ya maji. Some die, some are left with life-changing injuries, some say goodbye to motherhood forever and some are lucky to escape with their lives and health but carry the trauma and stigma for the rest of their lives.
First, we criminalize sex work and homosexuality. Then, law enforcement preys on people who engage in such acts through extortion and blackmail. Then, we ensure that they are not able to access proper healthcare and counselling services. Then, they turn out to be our loved ones’ clients or secret lovers. Then, our loved ones acquire HIV and STIs from them and transmit to us. Then, we end up caught up in the mess we created in the first place.
We are a ‘righteous’ nation of hypocrites. Our hypocrisy will continue killing us and our children until we decide to make the right choice. The choice to have these conversations and take action. We have to realize that:
- we cannot force people to reproduce when they do not want to;
- we cannot prevent people from trading their bodies for money; and
- we cannot prevent people from loving and/or sleeping with whomever they like.
We may not be ready to legalize the acts but de-criminalizing them is a good place to start. We can legislate to protect such people from violence and discrimination and ensure that they are able to freely access healthcare and safe abortion procedures. We can save lives by having these conversations but turning a blinding eye is so much easier…so much more convenient! Mtu apambane na hali yake. Je, bora uhai?