By Mpho Kuhlmann
You are a savvy young man dating this nice girl you met while out with friends. She seems okay but you are not really into her. After a few months of dating, she begins to ask serious questions like: “Where is this relationship headed?” If you cannot come up with a satisfactory answer the natural progression would be to either dump you or take matters into her own hands by trapping you with a baby.
The “savvy young man” and the “nice girl” may be fictitious characters, but their story is very real. From a recent study by the BMC Public Heath: “Unintended pregnancy, contraceptive use, and childbearing desires among HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected women in Botswana: across-sectional study” it is safe to conclude that almost every Motswana sexually active adult man has been part of a locker-room conversation about those accidentally ‘oopsie’ pregnancies. The three year old study byGloria K. Mayondi; Kathleen Wirth; Sikhulile Moyo; Chelsea Morroni; Gbolahan Ajibola; Modiegi Diseko; Maureen Sakoi; Jane Dipuo Magetse; Kebaiphe Moabi; Joseph Makhema; Jean Leidner; Betsy Kammerer and Shahin Lockman revealed that accidental pregnancy in Botswana is almost as prevalent as planned pregnancy.
The research team analyzed interview data collected among 473 HIV-uninfected and 468 HIV-infected pregnant and recently postpartum women at two sites in southern Botswana. Participants were interviewed about their knowledge of their HIV status prior to pregnancy, intendedness of the pregnancy, contraceptive use, and future childbearing desires.
The median age of the 941 women was 27 years, median lifetime pregnancies was 2, and 416 (44 %) of pregnancies were unintended. Among women reporting unintended pregnancy, 36 % were not using a contraceptive method prior to conception. Among contraception users, 81 % used condoms, 13 % oral contraceptives and 5 % an injectable contraceptive. In univariable analysis, women with unintended pregnancy had a higher number of previous pregnancies and less likely to be married or living with a partner.
The high number of unplanned pregnancies among single women is fodder for one of Botswana men and their parents’favourite bugaboos: that a good number of desperate women are baby trapping their partners to secure relationships. Baby trapping is a situation where the women surreptitiously causes a pregnancy without her partner’s consent, usually by lying about or sabotaging birth control, in order to bind their partner to them. Sometimes they are desperate to get hitched or have a child; other times they feel the relationship is on the rocks and believe that a baby will rekindle the romance; still other times they feel the pregnancy will establish a claim on the other person.
Ms Pontsho Leagilwe, a counsellor at Por Vida in Gaborone West says “Trap” isn’t just keeping a baby when the man clearly doesn’t want it. It can (and often does) mean lying about contraceptives. In fact, many women admit to lying about it when they could do so anonymously. I would suggest to men that before getting sexually involved, have a talk (maybe a few) in which you emphasize your desire for NO kids and tell her that if she were to get pregnant despite all measures, then you are not ready to be a father or to support her child. This will put most women off but not all! Women need to understand that a child is not a quick fix solution to making a man find you more desirable. A child is not the key to making a man fall in love with you. If he does stay after you become pregnant it is not because of you it is because of his child. The relationship you think you will receive from him will not endure because he does not love you ÔÇô he loves what he has made with you.”
Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University Of Botswana says the problems with trapping a man are numerous. “First of all, this is a highly spoiled and over indulged way of behaving. Secondly, the consequences of trapping a man ÔÇô especially if that trap involves pregnancy bring a completely innocent party into your relationship that didn’t ask for this type of betrayal. And yes, even if it works out perfectly ÔÇô it is a betrayal to trap a man. The other thing to consider is that even though a woman may get what she wants by trapping her man into marriage, child rearing or commitment, they will always be wondering if that is the only reason that they got where they are. The question of whether they would have chosen this path will undermine the relationship and cause insecurities. Even more detrimental is the fact that if a man feels as though he has been tricked or trapped, he will be less trustful of his partner (if at all). At some point the trapping incident, allegations or suspicions will cause resentment and separation.”
There seems to be another trend on the streets whereyoung Batswana women baby-trap their rich and successful married men in an attempt to secure a comfortable life. While sexual relationships between young girls and married men may be nothing new, the rate at which young girls are pushing cases of child support through the court is giving credence to street theories that young ladies are baby trapping men for material gain. It all starts on a light move. The man agrees to take up responsibility, taking care of the lady’s bills, renting her a nice pad buying her a nice set of wheels and taking her on those monthly shopping trips. It’s all hunky dory until the “accidental” pregnancy.
Warona Tseetse an admin assistant at Orange Botswana in Gaborone says baby trapping might have been there ages ago but it is still very rife in the city in this day and age. “We are living in an age where so many women, young and old are mothers to an average of 3 kids but have never been a wife to even one man. If a man doesn’t want to be tied down then there is nothing a woman can do about it. Lying about birth control and conceiving a man’s child who wants nothing more than sex and a bit of comfort from you is not smart ÔÇô it is dumb and will leave you and the child in pain. A man’s actions will always give him away so do not try to fight against his feelings by tricking him into a birth he does not want and into being with you when he does not want that either. Sadly, there are many women who know firsthand that most men do not think much about leaving a woman high and dry with a child.”
Gopolang Phiri, who works at Century Office Supplies in Gaborone, says baby trapping isn’t a good idea, “Bringing a baby into this world needs both partners to commit. It needs planning, readiness and love. Usually the committed person is more likely to feel strained in the relationship because there was/is no love from their partner. The man will always seek love elsewhere because he loathes the woman, because this will essentially be a forced marriage or relationship, the woman will never be a priority and thus there will never be happiness as desired. There is this category of men who will deny the pregnancy especially if there was no discussion. The lady might feel undermined and all the bad feelings will be transferred to the child.”