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Arnold Ageta

Premarital sex is sex between two people before they are married. Young people are curious about discovering their sexuality before marriage. But they rarely refer to sexual and reproductive health services for advice and guidance. This exposes them to risks of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

Tidal Wave News talked to five speakers (Aboubacar Traoré and Mariam Koné, both young journalists, the couple Rachel and Drissa Coulibaly, and an expert in sexual and reproductive health, Dr. Mamadou Coulibaly) to who discussed about premarital sex.

Mariam Koné, 19, is a radio journalist who hosts a radio program in Mali that promotes peace. She says that premarital sex is useful because it allows prospective partners to discover each other sexually.

‘‘Before they are legally married, each of them then knows what their partner likes or what their partner can handle sexually,’’ she opined.

She adds that it is beneficial to newlyweds because it allows them to get to know each other and establish a sense of intimacy.

Even if it is beneficial to both parties, she says that sometimes premarital sexcan break up a marriage. She also says that nowadays, in her community, it is very difficult to talk openly about premarital sex for fear of going against religion or tradition.

 ‘‘This taboo goes back to the time of our ancestors. During that time, sex was sacred and you had to be initiated to talk about it. Young people could not ask about it. This applied until their parents or grandparents initiated them through traditional practices such as circumcision or excision. In ancient times, these practices happened as children approached adolescence,’’ she explained.

But, what do cultural and religious beliefs say about premarital sex?

‘‘According to our cultural and religious beliefs, sexual relations are forbidden before marriage. This prohibition comes from the tradition that any young girl who gets married is a virgin. However, this prohibition is not applied to the groom,’’ said Miriam.

When asked whether as a young woman cultural and religious beliefs influenced her decision to have premarital sex, she agreed.

‘‘Yes, religious and cultural beliefs influenced my decision to have premarital sex. It was important to avoid premarital sex for fear of disgracing my parents. But with what my male and female friends were saying about the subject, curiosity got the better of me,’’ she greed.

Aboubacar Traoré, 21 is also a journaliststudent at the Ecole supérieure de Journalisme et des Sciences de la Communication in Bamako, and President of the Association des Jeunes Engagés pour la Paix.

Like in Kenya, according to Aboubacar, many people have premarital sex in Mali and the belief of preserving virginity until marriage does not work.

‘‘This belief has been passed down by our parents from generation to generation. Religion has come to reinforce this belief. But this rule was primarily established for young girls,’’ he said reservedly.

He said that that this belief is no longer respected by both unmarried women and men.

As an unmarried man, cultural and religious beliefs do not influence his decision to engage in premarital sex.

‘‘It’s true that we want to respect or honour our parents by remaining chaste. But when my libido started to develop, instead of engaging in masturbation, I preferred to go see a young girl,’’ explained Aboubacar.

The hurdle for him is to access to access sexual health services.

‘‘I know that there are sexual health services in the capital, but I have never been to any. I feel embarrassed to be stared at, or to be insulted by sexual and reproductive health counselors because of my young age,’’ he said.

He says that information and awareness sessions for the youth need to be packaged to promote their wellbeing.

DR. Mamadou Coulibaly says that there are no medical benefits for premarital sex. He warns youths to use protection when having premarital sex to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

‘‘When you want to have premarital sex, you should wear condoms to avoid STIs and HIV,’’ she warned.

 She says that ladies can adopt a contraceptive method to prevent unwanted or early pregnancies.

‘‘When we see young girls who come for consultation, we offer them services which are adapted to their needs, such as screening for sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy tests. Once the girl’s status is known, we adopt the appropriate treatment,’’ she said.

She adds that youths fear seeking sexual and reproductive health services et they are offered in almost all facilities.

‘‘Unmarried people can access all sexual and reproductive health services offered at health facilities,’’ she assured them.