So here’s the story.
On Tuesday the Daily News reported that the KwaZulu-Natal health department will be injecting 12 female university students with contraceptives to stop them from falling pregnant while they receive training in India. No, seriously.
Officials are said to be taking these drastic steps to to avoid a repeat of the “Cuban pregnancy scandal”, which is said to have embarrassed officials earlier this year.
Word of the scandal doesn’t seem to have broached KZN borders so we did some digging.
It turns out, four students who were sent to Cuba for medical training had returned pregnant last year.
In one particular case a student from Zululand fell pregnant in Cuba last year and was unable to complete her training, or leave the country until the baby was born.
And yet the pregnancy of one student from Zululand was also occasion for the deputy mayor of her home town to pronounce on the subject.
Zululand district deputy mayor Sibongile Qwabe said: “… in no way are we condoning the deed of the student in Cuba.”
Why, thank you, Mr Deputy Mayor, your disapproval of the sexual behaviour of women in your constituency is most assuring that our public officials understand that women are free to do what they want their bodies.
Qwabe at least showed that he did understand basic human biology by pointing out that towning generally involves two human beings, and so vilifying just the woman, is a little, just a tad, unfair.
“I think she should not be the only one who faces the music because she does not impregnate herself. The male student must also be brought to book.”
Check your calendars, because we thought this was 2014 South Africa. And a woman who falls pregnant is not guilty of any wrong doing.
But perhaps KZN officials live in a time warp.
The MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, has been quite determined to prevent other female bursary students receiving training abroad from falling pregnant:
“In future, serious attention must be channelled to curb such events because it delays the whole process of medical training,” Dhlomo said earlier this year.
And so it has come to pass that Dhlomo has ordered 12 female university students to be injected with contraceptives to stop them from falling pregnant ahead of a trip to India where they will receive pharmaceutical and ultrasonography training at the Manipal University in Jaipur.
The students are being injected with “Implanon”, which will prevent pregnancy for up to three years, and probably also experience side effects like vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina), mood swings, headaches and dizziness but on the plus side, tax payers’ money will be saved!
According to press reports, Dhlomo said “the government had invested about R600 000 per student and it was unfair for the students to abuse the privilege.”
A total of 30 students from KZN will leave for India on Thursday. According to the Daily News, their bursaries have been funded by the government as well as private sector sponsors, Rand Merchant Bank and the South African division of Indian pharmaceutical company, Cipla.
In all, about R20 million is being spent on sustenance, tuition and accommodation – about R600 000 per student. But the women in the group will have a matchstick-sized rod inserted in their arms to ensure their studies are not affected by unplanned pregnancies.
Speaking to the Daily News, Charity Majola, 23, of Gamalakhe in Port Shepstone, who will study ultrasonography, said she was worried about the side effects of taking Implanon but had agreed to be injected with the contraceptive.
“I will agree to it for the sake of everyone, so that we ensure that money is not wasted. You know all this joy and all the warm words from everyone have really put a lot of pressure on us to perform,” she said.
We’ll let Twitter take it from here.
Metro FM host Melanie Bala asked what her followers and listeners what they made of the debacle:
KZN Health has injected 12 female students w/contraceptives, ahead of their studies in India, to prevent them falling pregnant. Justified?
— IG: melzinbala (@MelBala) July 30, 2014
Some can’t see what the fuss is about. They feel the KZN government is justified in its actions.
With SA’s skills shortage I say govt is within its rights to impose “closed legs policy”on bursary beneficiaries! #KZNContraceptionDebacle
— tawenigondwexaba (@nyamkhuzi) July 30, 2014
Others however, called bullshit.
And as Dr Sindi van Zyl, points out, there are serious implications to be considered here:
While others, contributed to this morning’s Metro FM discussion on the topic with a helpful label to this forced contraception practice: