HEALTH, SEX AND SEXUALITY

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights shouldn’t be taken for granted

By Nobantu Shabangu

I am a born-free, which means I was born in 1990- a significant year for that is the year Nelson Mandela was released. By the time I started school a free election where every race could participate had passed. A bill of rights had been written up and South Africa had made history for its smooth transition from apartheid to a peaceful land free for all.

In grade three I was told of my rights and was informed that if anyone violated any of them, I had every right to report them to the police. I do not know what a life without rights is like and so one can say that I have taken them for granted until now. I had taken rights for granted so much so that I had forgotten them and I had to look them up again. I then went on to ask my friend about which rights she was most grateful for and she also could not answer me immediately.

Women have been persecuted against without fault for hundreds, if not thousands of years. While men were have always pioneered to be equal to other men and nations, women have a history of being treated as second class citizens. The rights of women were not paramount in a patriarchal system- women were tantamount to livestock. Women had absolutely no rights; they had no right to ownership of land or any property; without their husbands they were nothing. Women were seen as good for only baby making and so the right to even enjoy sex was taken away.

Sitting on a sunny Saturday morning my friend and I were talking about the latest events in the news when suddenly, out of the blue, my friend shouted “I’m grateful that I have the freedom to enjoy sex. I am free to do as I wish with my body”. That’s when I realised that I had overlooked this freedom. South Africa is the one of a couple of countries in Africa were a women can get an abortion on request. Some countries don’t even grant abortion even when it threatens the woman. South Africa is also one of the few countries in Africa where female circumcision is outlawed. In Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt female circumcision is still practised, robbing women of their freedom to do as they wish with their bodies and taking away the freedom to enjoy sex forever.

I am glad I live in a country filled with many freedoms for women. There are many persons who still do not know or understand the freedoms and rights women have and so they violate these freedoms by abusing and raping women. I will never again take for granted my rights which grant my freedom. I hope other South African women will think twice about the freedoms we have and be grateful for them on Freedom day.

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