We see the issue of family planning (or contraceptives) framed in terms of macro planning. “We need to curb population growth” and such. But we should look at it at an individual level, the level of human rights. Women’s liberation is only possible when women have the means to control their fertility. Where men can (and do) run away from an unplanned pregnancy, women get stuck with a child in a situation where they are not ready to take care of it. Most of all, the child is the victim: growing up in a situation that is not conducive for a well rounded and fulfilling life.
The term family planning presumes a family, and there have been plenty of testimonies of young people’s trouble in accessing contraceptives. Many shop keepers refuse to supply condoms to unmarried youth especially girls.
But we need to take young people seriously. They have to make their own decisions and when adults are interfering with their choices they do not learn and cannot grow into well decision making adults.
One of the important areas for youth do decide are their own bodies, as in the title of a famous American feminist book: our bodies, ourselves. The youth need to have the agency to decide for themselves when they are ready to have sex. We as adults can support them by making sure they have the information and the means they need to prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancy. The choices are their own.
We need to supply comprehensive sex education at an early age, before they become sexually active. After that it may (and in many cases will) be too late. They may have contracted an STI (including HIV/Aids0 or unwanted pregnancy.
Countries that have early comprehensive sex education in their school curriculum (like Denmark and Netherlands) have very low rates of teenage pregnancy, abortion and STIs including HIV/Aids.
We need to educate the whole population including service providers up to the level of shop and bottle store operators on the need for the youth to take their own decisions and to have access to information, contraceptives and services.