Someone comes in and he is patient, allowing the customer to get what he/she wants, not because that’s how he feels but because he’s buying condoms and it isn’t his proudest moment. He gets his condoms and leaves, ready to have safe sex but somehow, feels like he’s committed a grave offence trying to get this condom. This is the normal day-to-day in the life of almost every Nigerian man/woman who wants to get a condom.
You would think using condoms and other contraceptives are supposed to be a responsible act especially when the plan is to avoid sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies but shame culture around contraceptives as made this an issue.
First, sexual promiscuity has been associated with the use of condoms. People, both young and old tend to be a lot more judgy of other people once they realise that they either have a stash of condoms or contraceptives.
Some also believe that making the purchase is a form of an announcement that you’re about to have sex or you intend having sexual relations. Because Nigeria is a very communal place, it won’t be a surprise that neighbours start keeping a watch to see who comes to visit all because you got a pack of condoms. This can be worse when you are unmarried as two of the major religions practised in Nigeria preach abstinence and having a stash of condoms means the individual is having premarital sex.
Many young people have found new alternatives to getting condoms as opposed to getting them from the pharmacy. Some get them at wellness centres, or during monthly check-ups at the hospital. For some women, it is better than getting it over the counter as she could be a victim of slut-shaming.
Most times they end up buying things she had no intention of buying - just so there’s little attention drawn to the condoms. These days, more Nigerian youths are going farther away from their houses to buy contraceptives so that they’re less likely to know who they are and the process is a lot easier for them.
So how do we make this shame/stigma associated with buying condoms a thing of the past? First, pharmacies need to ensure that their staff are well trained to understand that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying packs of condoms. They should know not to stare weirdly at the people buying the condoms as this creates an environment that is unsuitable generally for everyone. Also, we, as young people need to. Taking the shame away will help in buying the condoms or whatever contraceptive that we think we need.
The more comfortable we get while picking out contraceptives, the faster we take down the Nigerian culture of embarrassment around sex. This would mean more will have safe sex and in turn lower rates of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. Let’s take action! Enough is enough.