Condom Use Low Among Female Tertiary Students

A recent report by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has revealed that a worrying number of female students in tertiary institutions are having unprotected sex right from their first sexual encounter.

Presenting at the Ending Sexual Harassment And Abuse in Universities Dialogue at the University of Zimbabwe today (UNESCO) Regional HIV And Health Education Adviser Patricia Machawira said condom use is still low particularly among female students in tertiary institutions, an embarrassment of being seen with condoms being at the top of reasons.

“Condom use is still quite low particularly among females. 66% females and 47% males had not used a condom the first time they had sex. First year female students pose a uniquely vulnerable sub-population.

“Most of the girls end up having unprotected sex because when seen with condoms they are called loose. 

“While it was not possible to collect data on HIV incidence in the universities for various reasons, we know that high numbers of new HIV infections are occurring in this age group.” she said

Machawira also highlighted poverty as a key driver of risky sexual behaviour and lack of access to Sexual Reproductive health (SRH) services due to lack of the government funding leaving the burden to parents and guardians.

“From an online survey in Zimbabwe, only three percent of respondents had received a government loan, and another seven percent had some kind of grant or scholarship with the rest self funding. In contrast, the online survey in Tanzania reveals that 75 percent of students had taken government loans to pay for their studies,” explained Machawira.

Speaking at the same event, UN Resident Coordinator Bishow Prajuli said clear policies and laws should be put in place that show zero tolerance to sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse among students and within the university as a whole. 

He added that sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse are serious violations of basic human rights, dignity and leaves a life-long scar on the life of the survivor. Equally, it has huge health and economic costs not only to the victim but also to the family, community and the country in general.

“I am alarmed at the statistics given nearly two years ago by Female Students Network Trust to the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development that 74 percent of female students in tertiary institutions have been subjected to sexual harassment by male staffers at campuses throughout the country.

“This is a cause of high concern needing urgent support and interventions, one case of sexual harassment is one-too-many, and that all academic institutions including universities must ensure that the students have the best environment to succeed academically and support students to become empowered adults who can make an honest living and contribute meaningfully to society. 

“Tertiary institutions need to develop a clear guideline of code-of-conduct or golden-rules on the need to maintain professionalism, non-exploitative relationships between management, staff, lecturers and students at all times.” said Parajuli.

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