Should virgins use tampons?

HARARE - High pitched voices from a quarrel could be heard from as far as 100 metres from the hair salon as mothers argued over the use of tampons by teenage girls.

The bone of contention between the two  camps was that some believed using tampons would take away their daughter’s virginity, while others disagreed.

“How can you say a virgin  must use tampons? It is not feasible; the girl will lose her virginity! Then I will have a tough time explaining to the father how this happened, when she gets married.

“If I am ever to find tampons in my house, I will burn them and flog the child very hard,” said Tsitsi Kamambo a Harare mother of three girls.

Kamambo’s sentiments summed up the general attitude of parents on the use of tampons by teenagers in Zimbabwe.

They feel virgins must not use tampons as the general belief is they break the hymen.
Tampons are used by girls and women to provide protection when they are menstruating.

They are cylinder or oblong in shape and are made of compacted, soft, cotton-like material.

The walls of the vagina hold the tampon in place, and a string attached to the bottom of the tampon is used to remove the tampon when it’s absorbed or  when it’s time for it to be replaced.

There are many different types of tampons on the market, and like pads they are sized according to their absorbency.

Super-absorbent tampons are often thicker and longer than regular tampons or tampons intended for a light flow. Girls and teens should opt for slender tampons, because they are smaller, easier to insert, remove and manage.

Despite these characteristics in the tampons that manufacturers have been upgrading over the years since the invention of the product, most Zimbabwean parents, mothers especially, are suspicious of the product.

One tends to wonder if the doubts emanate from a stereotype-driven sentiment or are based on  genuine fears by mothers of having their daughters disgrace them.

“We live in a country where a non-virgin young women struggles to find a husband to marry. I would not let my child use a tampon because I am merely protecting her from the harsh stereotypes in our society,” said Monica Kachidza, a lawyer who has a teenage daughter.

In Zimbabwe, conservative voices say virginity is a must for a happy marriage. The issue is seriously regarded to the extent of fuelling a thriving business in products that allegedly “restore” one’s womanhood.

To further explain the way Zimbabweans feel about virginity is the classic case of the First Lady proclaiming to the nation that her daughter was a virgin just before she got married.

However, medical experts told the Eyeshot the myth was unfounded.

Sarah Nehanda, a Harare based obstetrician and gynaecologist said tampons do not take away one’s virginity.

“Interestingly, not all women are born with hymens, and hymens can break without women knowing it. Strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, horseback riding, stretching, or dancing, can also cause the hymen to break.

“A woman’s hymen could have already been broken or stretched, even if she has not had a penis inside of her. So no, a tampon does not take away virginity and is recommended if the user is comfortable,” said Nehanda.

However, Nicolas Mutebuka, a Harare-based father of four told the Eyeshot he would send his wife packing if he discovered she was encouraging their children to use tampons.

“My daughter, you are asking me this question as if you are not Zimbabwean, but judging from your name you are.

“Now tell me how embarrassed your parents will be if they do not get mombe yechimanda (A cow given to a girl’s parents after lobola if she was a virgin)? All because you were foolish and inserted things in your privates,” Mutebuka said.

The father-of-four went further, saying government should gazette a piece of legislation making it illegal for minors to buy tampons.

Sibusisiwe Ntini, 14, a swimming champion in one of the country’s swimming leagues told the reporter her parents have no problems with her using the product.

“After my parents discovered my passion for swimming, my mother and I had a talk and she introduced me to tampons.

“This way I can participate in all my activities without the disruption of my cycle,” she said.

Thandeka, Sibusisiwe’s mother also told the Eyeshot that mothers needed education on the product as it was the best option for their daughters.

“Not only is it more hygienic, it gives the kids more liberty and comes in different shapes and sizes for the little girls.

“Mothers need to be open minded, in the West; most girls are using the product. If stereotypes lead to us depriving our children of the liberty to be happy in their womanhood, shame on us as a people,” she said.

Ntini is one of the few parents who view the issue in this manner. As reflected by the salon visit, most mothers maintain virgins must not use the product in question.

“A girl child must respect her body and sticking objects down there is downright wrong and disrespectful, not only to the child but to the parents and future husband.

“Children must not even be introduced to the product, it is every mother’s duty to protect their daughters from things like these,” said Rudo Taderera.

Jessica Mutendi, a local counsellor told the reporter that Zimbabwe will never embrace the product due to the religious and cultural beliefs the country holds in terms of virginity, womanhood and marriage.

“In this country the girl must save herself for her future husband, anything that defeats this notion is frowned upon, and I am afraid tampons are viewed as a danger to the virgin teen,” Mutendi said.

Although the country does not have official statistics on pad and tampon usage, health educators believe the pad has more sales than the tampon due to societal acceptance.

“Of course the pad sales quicker than the tampon, society embraces it, many grown up ladies do not even use tampons after they lose their virginity due to the way they were brought up.

Comments (2)

Virginity is not determined by the presence or absence of the hymen..... girl/woman loses their virginity when they have sex. Activities such as horse riding can break the hymen too.

mukwerekwere - 30 June 2014

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