Speech by Maria Epaminonda, Executive Director, Cyprus Family Planning Association, delivered during “Barometer of Women’s Access to Modern Contraceptive Choice in 16 EU Countries” event at the European Parliament, September 22, 2015.
I would like to kindly ask you to imagine that you are a teenage girl at the age of 17.
You are finishing high school this year and you have already made plans for your graduate years - you are living with your parents who are well educated but conservative enough - they have never talked to you about any issues related to sexuality, sex or sexual health, they just don’t feel comfortable to talk about these issues as you are still their baby girl. You are in a relationship with a young man two years older than you, and you have started a sexual relationship with him.
By the way, you are living in Cyprus, a country which is going through a serious financial crisis; with a youth unemployment rate of 37.1% (according to the latest statistics) and an unemployment rate of 17.7% amongst the general public.
You are living in a country where there is no Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Strategy, there are no youth-friendly services, no reimbursement schemes related to contraception, no family planning clinics and services, and no National Health Scheme. Although sexuality education in your country is included in the health education curriculum, unfortunately the evidence shows that it is not effectively implemented.
Moreover, you are living in a highly patriarchal society where traditional “masculine” and “feminine” gender roles do still exist and create inequalities between girls and boys, and women and men.
So, you are very much in love with this young man and you trust him a lot. You have been having sex for almost a year now, it’s your first sexual relationship, and you are totally dependent on your partner regarding contraception use. He usually uses a condom unless he runs out of them. It’s clear to you that it’s his responsibility; you are also too embarrassed to buy a condom, although you are actually putting yourself at risk.
Why aren’t you using any other contraceptive method? You do have options don’t you? Of course you do. Besides the male condom, you can use the pill, although this needs to be prescribed by a doctor, or you can use the intrauterine device (IUD or coil), although this is not provided by state hospitals but only by private clinics. It also costs between €200 and €300.
Perhaps you are a fortunate seventeen year old girl. Because…if you were a single mother, a young unemployed woman, a girl or a woman in a rural area, a migrant or an asylum seeker living in Cyprus, you would have even less access to modern contraceptive methods.
How does that feel?