Chatting to the Uber driver who drove me home from somewhere the other day, I found myself getting into a conversation that riled me. I’m one of those Uber passengers that (I’m sure) the drivers dread: I’m a talker. I blame my mother, it’s in my genes. She always (to our teenaged mortification) knows the entire family history of the person in front of (or behind) her in the Pick ‘n Pay before she gets to the tills. Or both.
So this dude, we’ll call him Dude, to protect his anonymity, is sweet, as he helps put my wheelchair into the boot of his mag-wheeled, ‘fresh pine’-smelling car with an exhaust slightly bigger than normal, making said car have a feline roar. He’s from Mitchell’s Plain and has just had his third child, a daughter. The Proud Dad shines off him as he speaks of her.
Me: Oh, how lovely. Are the others girls too?
Dude: Nope. Two boys. One is 10, the other 14, and they adore her.
Me: Sweet. She’ll be a well-protected little sister!
Dude. Hell, yes. You should’ve seen the young girls at the clinic when I went with my fiancé for her pre-natal check-ups. 13-, 14-year olds. Pregnant and proud.
Me: It’s sad, isn’t it? This is a crazy world we’re living in.
Dude: I’ll never let that happen with my daughter. I’ll slap her silly.
Me (stumbling slightly with how to best respond): I’m not sure that’ll work. I think the only way around it is for parents to speak to their children openly, all the time.
Dude: I’ll keep her indoors until she’s 21.
Me: The thing is, kids are having sex. Keeping her indoors won’t help. It’ll just make it worse. Open, honest conversation, especially about contraception, surely, is the way to go?
Dude (having none of it): Hmm.
Me: Do you speak to your sons about it?
Dude: No, they can do what they like.
Yes, that is what he said. ‘My sons can do what they like’. And that’s when I got riled.
I wanted to scream at him: It is your SONS that are making those girls pregnant. And it’ll be somebody else’s son, who’s father has also glibly told him he can do whatever he likes, that’ll make your little princess pregnant. But I didn’t put it quite so personally, because I hope that it won’t be, that their story won’t go that way.
For the rest of the trip, however, I tried to get the point across. A point that I keep seeing people missing, over and over, as the cycle of teen pregnancy, HIV transmission and, worse, gender-based violence, continues in this vicious circle where everything is the woman’s responsibility. This is not new, and has been written, spoken and argued about for aeons, by people much cleverer than me. But I need to rant. I’ll just stick to unwanted pregnancies here, and HIV transmission, because these are things I’ve seen and know about.
There are ALWAYS two people involved. At no point should the responsibility for preventing both pregnancy and HIV lie solely on the shoulders of just one, invariably, the girl/woman. If the world keeps teaching the boys that their responsibility is null, nothing will EVER change.
Let’s acknowledge that teen sex is happening, teach our children – not just the girls – about contraception, make it easily available and let them finish school, be free to become what they want to become and then, later, be parents to boys (and girls), who they’ll teach to be responsible, caring partners. Heaven knows, at this point in the world’s history (I can’t even bring myself to write about that), we need more caring.
It seems so simple.