So, I just watched a video in which a pastor in Ghana is beating a couple for getting pregnant out of wedlock and for attempting to have an abortion. The incident happened in Ghana but I can assure you that such things do happen in Nigeria; parents and guardians beat children for engaging in sexual activity and one particularly disgusting gendered punishment is putting PEPPER (yes, you read that right) on a girl’s private part. When I watched this video, I was angry at first because having been a victim of it myself, I am vehemently against public shaming of any kind but after my anger subsided, the video prompted me to tackle two issues that I know aren’t popular topics of discussion in most African societies and those issues are sex education and mental health. The relationship to sex education is very obvious but I’m sure people are wondering how mental health is related to this video and I am going to elaborate. The incident involves mental health because these people whose state of mind was unknown were publicly humiliated all in the name of discipline. Public shaming as a form of discipline is one of the cruellest things you can do to a person especially when they are still in their formative years (the couple looked like teens to me): You may feel that you are disciplining someone but you are just humiliating them.
That humiliation may lead them to resent you for life/a very long time or in some cases, lead to suicide. There was an incident in the US where a father recorded himself cutting his daughter’s hair and posted it on social media. Her schoolmates saw the video and made fun of her and this led her to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. Now, I know Nigerians/Africans think that they are immune to suicide but that is not the case at all; there have been several incidences of people committing suicide in Nigeria. It is impossible to know the state of a person’s mind unless you are their psychiatrist or psychologist so it is better not to do anything that might push them over the edge.
On the sex education aspect. I grew in a fairly liberal household (liberal according to Nigerian standards and that is not saying much) and we never spoke about sex at all; it was a huge taboo topic. I went to a Christian school and we talked about sex during the biology class but that was a lecture, not a discussion and it was also very scientific and was strictly from a reproductive point of view. We could discuss sex in the Anti-AIDS Club (which I was president of at one point, insert smirk face emoji) but not all students were members of that club and so could not benefit from the free space. In secondary school, there was also this stigma where girls sex like me interested in having conversations about sex were labelled “bad girls” and not “wife material”: this stigma only affected girls because ONLY boys are allowed to be curious about sex (rolling my eyes). In church, they only told us to abstain from sex until marriage and that fornication was a sin and you would go to hell and all that (very fire and brimstone warning). I say all this to highlight how teenagers in Nigeria/Ghana do not receive adequate sex education and are left to learn about sex on their own and most of the time, they learn about sex through porn. Porn is a performance and doesn’t accurately depict sex but yet we have millions of teenagers having to learn about sex through porn so when they go in relationships, they have this unrealistic expectation of sex and this could lead to problems (this is a discussion for any day).
There is a saying that goes “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” What is going on in the society now (abstaining from discussing sex with teenagers) does not prevent them from having sex at all: According to an article by Najj in 2013, the National Population Commission reported that the occurrence of teen pregnancies (teen= between 15 and 19) in Nigeria may go over 60 million in 2015. One great fallacy concerning sex education in Nigeria is that giving sex education is going to encourage teenagers to engage in sex. The fact is, teenagers who are going to have sex are going to have sex but sex education is going to properly inform about sex is and give them the tools to prevent pregnancies ergo unsafe abortions (which is another issue in Nigeria I plan on discussing in the future) and the spread of diseases.