For decades, children are trained to keep their virginity until the night of their wedding in order to bring honour to their parents, family and their community in line with traditions. Today, the rules have changed. There is a consent age at which the law recognizes a child’s responsibility for agreeing to sexual intercourse.
THE ROLE OF THE WHITE HANKERCHIEF
In Africa, our forefathers used the “white handkerchief Ceremony’ as a symbol of purity and virginity. According to historians, it is the duty of every mother to train their daughters to keep their virginity until the day of their wedding when the sexual intercourse will take place after the traditional marriage.
This was common among the Yoruba people from the western part of Nigeria. The process involves the usual meeting of family members of the bride and groom which is called the introduction.
After the introduction is the exchange of gifts. Then the white handkerchief rite follows. During the ceremony, both families are expected to stand at a respectable distance away from the ‘intercourse room’ where the bride will dance to meet the groom in the room and the ‘act’ will be performed.
After the sexual intercourse, the groom is expected to present a blood-stained handkerchief to the waiting family members as a symbol of virginity. If the bride pass the test, her mother has excelled in her role as a mother and she has brought honour to her family and the community where she was born.
Demand for women in the community of such bride will increase as opposed to families and communities where a bride is discovered to have lost her virginity before the marriage rite. Ceremonies like this forced many women to keep their virginity till their wedding night despite peer pressures.
THE CONSENT AGE
Today, new age parents are struggling in their parental role. Many teenagers have lost their virginity before their 10th birthday. Due to pressure at work, many parents have assigned their duties to their housemaid.
However, the consent age in the new era is 18 years. A person above 18 years of age is no longer a child and is fully allowed by the law to choose who and when to have sexual intercourse.
This may sound incredible but it is a fact. Many parents with kids above 18 years are struggling to control them. Though they can be controlled at home but what of when they get admission into higher institutions and are staying on their own?
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
Parents must continue to love and support any child that is above 18 years. On the issue of preventing them from sexual intercourse with their peers, parents can do nothing but to teach abstinence and encourage them to protect their selves from sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy.
The fact is, what they have been taught from birth is enough for them. Besides, it is the kind of friends that they keep that will make or mar their future. Hence, parents must monitor the activities of their kids before it is too late.
In all societies of the world, the cliché “Children are the Leaders of Tomorrow has formed the bedrock of my belief that not only a proper development and protection of the child is necessary but that all framework for harnessing the creative potentials towards personal development, national integration and development must be ensured by every parent.