Is the government prioritising supplying free condoms over free sanitary pads for underprivileged women?
Is the government prioritising supplying free condoms over free sanitary pads for underprivileged women? This is the question that has lit up social media following the announcement by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in the National Assembly that the government is replacing its Choice brand condoms with a new brand of flavoured condoms, called Max.
Ramaphosa said that Max “is for maximum pleasure” and the government had decided to release new condoms “in response to what a number of people were saying. They were saying the other condom [Choice] that had been introduced by government did not smell so well and it made a noise whenever it was used”.
Under the hash tag #MAXcondoms, social media users have acknowledged the need for free condoms but are questioning the priorities, as in this tweet: “…new brand of free condoms but I still have to pay for pads and tampons?”
Director at the Society for Family Health, Miriam Mhazo, said in an interview with Cape Talk that there was a need to improve the “status” of the condom as according to research people were not happy with Choice condoms.
“It lacked the status… If you have a partner you wanted to impress, Choice was not the condom to take out of your pocket,” Mhazo said to Cape Talk.
Mhazo continued to say that research has shown that there has been a decline in condom use between 2008 and 2012 and the Max flavoured condoms hopes to encourage the youth to practice safe sex.
Jackie Dugard, director at the Wits Gender Equality Office, told Wits Vuvuzela that “it is critical to distribute condoms to encourage safe sex, but we feel it was a wasted opportunity to highlight the problems of male sexual entitlement and rape culture, as linked to the need for a focus on consensual sex.”
Joe Maila, spokesperson for the department of health, refused to say how much the release of the new condoms was costing the government, just that “our job is to make sure that condoms are provided in order to prevent HIV and sexually transmitted diseases”.
He said that the department had released the new condoms over free sanitary pads due to the high rate of HIV infection in South Africa and that they were still working on making sanitary pads freely available for underprivileged women.