LAGOS, NIGERIA – Jide Odi, 27, a graduate from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, says Valentine’s Day usually leads to an increase in sexual activity.
“People say Valentine’s Day is a time for couples in a relationship to actually have unlimited sex,” he says. “It is the accepted day for one-time marathon sex. So naturally, it is expected that day the sales of condom and contraceptive will be high.”
But for Odi, Valentine’s Day is not about sex. He says he has no plans for the day.
“I don’t think I should pack all the sex of several days into one day,” he says.
As the world celebrates Valentine’s Day, young Nigerians debate whether people are more sexually active today. Retailers say they see an increase in contraceptive sales for the holiday. Meanwhile, nongovernmental organizations are using Valentine’s Day as a platform for sexual and reproductive health education for young people. Although access to condoms has increased, correct and consistent use of condoms remains a challenge.
Between 2005 and 2010, 49 percent of males and 36 percent of females ages 15 to 24 in Nigeria used a condom the last time they had sex with a nonmarital, noncohabiting partner, according to UNICEF.
In 2010, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Society for Family Health, a nongovernmental organization based in Lagos, distributed more than 2 billion male condoms and nearly 900,000 female condoms, according to the Nigeria 2012 Global AIDS Response Country Progress Report.
Precious Iheanacho, 18, says her peers are more inclined to have sex on Valentine’s Day. But she advocates for abstinence.
“I don’t do sex,” she says. “It is wrong to have sex before marriage.”
Iheanacho encourages her peers to at least use protection if they do have sex.
“Sex is something that should wait until you get married so then you can appreciate it,” she says. “But if you cannot control yourself, I think you should be protected.”
But Iheanacho says that young girls have limited knowledge about how they should protect themselves.
“There should be programs geared towards them,” she says. “They don’t know how to protect themselves so they end up committing abortion.”
Samson Opeyemi Oguntona, 28, says he plans to spend this Valentine’s Day with his girlfriend.
“My plan is to go out with my babe,” he says.
But Oguntona says that he is not caught in the web of limiting Valentine’s Day to sexual gratification. Rather, they may go to a fast-food restaurant or a recreational place to discuss issues.
Adeshola Enitan Okesanya, 21, says that she and her boyfriend may celebrate the holiday by attending events in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial city.
“We’ll do normal stuff: talk, kiss or have sex,” she says. “It just comes. It is not that I’m going to plan it.”
Okesanya says the day is not all about sex, attributing people’s misperception of this to a limited awareness of the significance of Valentine’s Day.
“This Valentine’s Day should be about love, care