If you live in the same house with your partner or spouse, and have been following the weeks-long guidelines to stay home, the chances you are having regular sex now are higher than they were pre-COVD-19. Hopefully ALL of these encounters are consensual, but we know that it isn’t always the case. In fact, in Nigeria (and many African contexts), it’s considered taboo to say ‘no’ to sex with your spouse, and marital rape is not a crime. Women are taught that regardless of how they feel, their bodies exist solely to procreate and pleasure others physically and visually. Thus women unable to leave their homes, are less able to turn down sex with their spouses without fear of retribution. Frankly, COVID restrictions further facilitates the rampant sexual abuse of women and girls by men in the same household.
The swift descent of social distancing rules and movement bans left people scrambling for primary essentials like food and water. Caught up in the new surreal reality, many found themselves stranded at home, and without secondary needs like contraceptives. Women with long acting contraceptives like implants and IUDs may still have years to use their devices. However, the movement bans could easily outlast short acting ones like condoms, pills and even injectables. Given the current traffic of potentially contagious people, it is particularly unsafe to venture to the hospital unless experiencing a life threatening illness. Even a trip to the pharmacy is suspect. Furthermore, with the uncertainty of the restriction timelines, families need to spend more now to stockpile their essentials. Unemployment, dwindling finances, and uncertainty about the future, can literally create and harden the choice between cabbage vs. condoms.
This situation not only leaves women at higher risk of STIs and unwanted pregnancies, but also without the necessary resources to access her sexual and reproductive rights. With the backdrop of a justice system that accepts the violation of women, legislation has only slowly provided access to varied sexual and reproductive rights. However, COVID-19 makes it even harder and many women may not have contraceptives handy, and not be able to get emergency contraception when they need it. Women that do get pregnant might then have difficulty accessing the necessary support through the difficult decisions that come with pregnancy. There is also always the potential for health complications in either/both mother and child, as well as guaranteed additional economic burdens in an already precarious future.
Fortunately, organizations such as Marie Stopes are continuing to provide free, quality services such as contraceptives, STI screening, pregnancy care, post-abortion care, and maternal and child health care even during the COVID-19 lockdown and they can be reached through their local helplines. Online supermarkets like Supermart.ng and Jumia have also prioritized sales of essentials including contraceptives that can be delivered to your home in the midst of the movement ban. Alongside combating sexual abuse, please share such relevant local resources with others in your community so no-one is denied life changing body-autonomy, and consensual sex can be safe and pleasurable.
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