Nigeria crowns “World Purity Queen”.

What’s wrong with this picture? Earlier this month in a campaign to promote abstinence among youth, the government of Abia state, Nigeria  crowned Mrs. Nwanyieze Prosper “Miss World Purity Queen 2013″and awarded her a brand new car for keeping her Virginity until marriage.

Turning Virginity into a commodity that can be traded for a car or any type of personal gain only cheapens it.

Mrs. Prosper was one of only two women who cared to be in the contest sponsored by Nigeria’s Purity Organization, a government-funded institution focused on promoting abstinence until marriage. The president of the Purity Organization, Mr. Prosper Tochukwu, said the prize car which he described as an “ enviable gift” would be donated by his organization in fulfillment of a pledge it made to reward any girl medically certified to be virgin on the eve of her wedding. Mr. Tochukwu indicated that since only two persons entered the contest since last year, the second person would be given a car as well since both were certified as virgins by medical experts.

The governor of Abia state, Theodore Orji, commended the Purity Organization for promoting abstinence and said in a statement that the consequences of pre-marital sex are enormous and that the ideals of the Purity Organization were in line with the goals of his administration. He assured the organization of continued government support in its activities and called upon (female) singles to keep their virginity, which he described as an “enduring priceless legacy”.

Some pretty desperate things have been done in many countries to try to get young people to abstain from sex until marriage, but this goes way beyond the pale. Some would argue that the Nigerian government — and the United States government for that matter — are doing a good thing by promoting abstinence through groups like The Purity Organization in light of the rampant spread of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS and staggering rates of teenage pregnancy. These people would also say how nice it is for young people to have a role model like “Miss World Purity Queen” to represent the virtues of saving themselves for marriage. And if it takes incentives like giving away new cars to those that make do to get the message across, so be it.

Well, I disagree with this on many levels and here’s why…

1. No one should be pressured or bribed into abstaining from sex.

I believe that people should not be pressured into keeping their Virginity any more than they should be pressured into losing it. The problem that I have with the so-called “abstinence movement” (which is really just a propaganda campaign fabricated by governments and special interest groups, and has nothing to do with Virgins themselves) is that too often its facilitators use intimidation and fear to get people to accept a way of life that goes against their nature. This Nigerian campaign took things to a whole new level of unethical conduct by using bribery. Yes, I believe that Virginity is “an enduring priceless legacy” as Theodore Orji put it, but I believe in maintaining Virginity for the love of Virginity — not to please others, and certainly not for profit. Turning Virginity into a commodity that can be traded for a car or any type of personal gain, no matter how lofty the intentions of doing so may be, only cheapens it.

2. “Miss World Purity Queen” contest objectifies Virgins.

At first glance, it may appear that the “Miss World Purity Queen” contest honors Virgins by putting them on a pedestal but the “Miss World Purity Queen” contest dehumanizes Virgins by objectifying them. A prime example of this is the way its contestants were made to undergo a physical exam on the eve of their wedding night to ensure that their hymens are in tact as the basis for winning. Aside from the fact that the hymen is only a symbol and doesn’t prove or disprove anything about a woman’s actual purity, this contest dehumanized Virgins by reducing them from being thinking human beings to a piece of skin between their legs — and reinforced the idea that Virgins are just objects to be used by someone else, like the Abia state government and the Purity Organization used these two young women as pawns to further their own agenda.

3. Governments should not get involved in people’s private lives.

What place does any government have in telling people whether or not they should have sex? I personally don’t believe that governments should tell their citizens how to manage their sexuality any more than they should tell their citizens what religion to practice. The decision to keep one’s Virginity or not is a highly personal one that the individual must make for herself/himself according to their own personality, beliefs, and capabilities. Of course, I think kids should learn about abstinence, but I disagree with so-called abstinence-only education that attempts to pressure, frighten, or bribe young people into abstaining. I learned about abstinence in grade school and made a vow at 12-years-old that I would remain a Virgin, and I’ve kept that vow all these years with little or no effort. But I know that everyone is not and cannot be like me. People have to embrace the sexual disposition that they were given and make decisions that are right for them. I believe young people should be taught about abstinence in addition to the use of contraceptives and then be allowed to freely make up their own minds about which path is right for them. Some will choose abstinence, others won’t.

Some people would say, “They’re kids! They don’t know what’s right for them! And contraceptives don’t always work! If the government has to pay billions of dollars in aid for unwed teenage mothers and patients with AIDS and other STDs, then the government has a right to promote whatever message it likes with regard to how kids should behave sexually!

Yes, they may be kids, but kids are people too. And you can’t stop people from doing what they want to do, especially in a free and democratic society. Since governments that fund abstinence-only programs profess to have such strong religious faith, I would suggest that they pray the following prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

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