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Many Africans would rather die than reveal their sexual problems- Professor Joachim Osur
Professor Joachim Osur is a professional sexologist, a sexual medicine doctor, a fellow at the European Committee on Sexual Medicine, and a Vice-Chancellor at AMREF International University. He fields questions from SILAS NYAMWEYA on why Africans don’t discuss their sexually related issues and how masturbation and use of toys affects one’s sexual life.
- 1. There are many quacks masquerading as professional sexologist in Africa…
Indeed, we have seen many people claiming to be sexologists or sex experts whether in the villages, on TVs. Even in various communities, there are people who have assigned themselves the role of sexologists. There are also others who claim to be sexual health expert, sexual medicine doctor, and sexologist thus making people confused.
- 2. Do you think the sexology profession is well appreciated in African context?
I don’t think so. Unfortunately, many people still don’t understand what this profession entails or its role in the society. For instance, I took my sexology training in the USA and when I was back in Kenya, I was sent some study materials related to sexology. However, upon inspection of the materials, the post office guys had to call me for interrogations and possible arrest on why I was importing “porn” materials. It took me a lot of effort including providing my credentials before I convinced them that I am a medical doctor and these were actually study materials. Even after proving myself, they were still hesitant claiming that Kenyan doctors don’t do these kind of things. Still fewer Kenyans have the guts to visit a sexologist when they have sexual problems. In-fact, the understanding out there in the community is that sexual problems cannot be dealt with by medical doctors or learned people for rather for village guys.
- 3. As a sexologist, what does your day to day role entail?
I am not only a sexologist but also a sexual medicine doctor. The two are different in the sense that while sexual medicine is involved in treating sexual medical conditions (such as pain during sex, erection problems etc), a sexologist focuses on psychological aspect of sex. Indeed, many sexual problems arise from psychological stress and it is the role of a psychologist to manage that through therapy and coaching.
Alongside dealing and helping patients with sexual problems, sexologists and sexual health experts are also involved in policy making processes. These policies include such issues as sexual orientation which is a contentious issue, issues to do with adolescent sexuality which is very explosive, sexual violence, sexual developments including those with abnormal sexuality and many others. Basically, a sexual expert with issues to do with treatment of sexual problems, psychological treatment and coaching and policy formulation.
- 4. What informed your decision to pursue sexology as a career?
I have been a medical doctor since graduating back in 1998 from the Royal College of Gynecologists and after internship; I got employed and began to work as a gynecologist at Agha Khan Hospital. During this time, I spent a lot of time treating women and one thing kept coming up, they kept asking questions which many doctors are unable to answer. This specific question was; my sexual interest with my husband has reduced significantly, how can I be helped? Many were asking me why they get a lot of pain during sex, and other sexually related problems. Sometimes they could come with their husbands and say, their sex life is poor. However, these patients were not get concrete solutions since medical doctors have little knowledge on matters sexuality as many were told that the issue is psychological and that it will get over after some time. This instigated an interest in me to consider taking sexologist as a specialty so as to help them. So I took personal interest because I realized there was a gap that needed to be filled.
- 5. Why did you choose to study your career in the USA other than Kenya, your country?
Unfortunately in Kenya, I could not find an institution that offers professional course in sexology. This made me look to the USA where such institutions are available. After graduating, I was accorded membership in the American College of Sexologists, and I am currently a fellow at the European Committee on Sexual Medicine, which is the highest recognition in the world.
- 6. How do you juggle between being a vice-chancellor at AMREF International University and attending to clients with sexual problems
I do my job as a vice chancellor on weekdays and attend to my clients during weekend. Most of my weekend sessions are normally booked and I see about 10-15 clients on one weekend.
- 7. What is your view about increased level of sexual activities among young people in the society today?
There has been a crisis in our country regarding young people engaging in sex with adults while at a tender age. This was further precipitated by the emergence of covid-19 pandemic. This is despite the fact that the law prohibits consent for a child to engage in sex. These had led to increased level of unplanned pregnancies, early marriages, dropping out of school. My research has found out that parents and guardians are equally to blame because some parents encourage their young girls to accept gifts or handouts from men who end up using them for sexual exploits. After engaging a number of teen mothers, I noted that some parents were supporting their engagement with adults because of handouts and things like that.
- 8. So how can this issue be resolved?
This issue needs proper legal implementation and community involvement to ensure that children and girls who haven’t reached the age of consent are duly protected.
- 9. Despite harsh penalties on sexual offenses, sexual violence cases including rape are still rampart in Kenya, why do you think this is so?
I think the implementation of the law is a problem. This is because a lot of these things happen in private and many of those who do it think that they will get a way. Again, there is stigmatization of the victims which makes it retract from reporting to authorities to avoid further trauma. Instead of being supportive, the system in place seems to subject victims to further humiliation.
- 10. What goes on the mind of a rapist or any other sexual offender?
There is no justification for committing any crime, leave a lone rape or sexual offense. Though we know some people could be on drugs, or under mental problems but this cannot be justification.
- 11. Bearing your stint in Europe, what can you say is the major difference between Europeans and Kenyans on matters sexuality?
Sex and sexual feelings are similar, irrespective of where you are. However, in Africa, we don’t talk much about it. For instance, there are gay people both in Kenya and in the USA but unlike in Kenya, such people will be loved and are open about their engagements in the USA. However, remaining quite on your sexual problem means that the issues remain unresolved. A good example is the H.I.V/AIDS scourge in our country which is yet to be controlled because of the secretive nature of such groups as gays, sexual workers among others which make them engage in sexual activities without protection.
A lot of marriages also crumple and although the issues could be resolving around sexual problems, they will never attribute this directly, even in court divorce proceedings. Instead, they will use other excuses. This is irrespective of the fact that sex problems are treatable.
A husband feels sexually stuffed but can’t talk to anyone including close friends, the next thing is that they get into conflict with the wife. If a man fails to disclose his erection problem, then the issue moves from bad to worse.
- 12. There is a common thought of some Kenyan tribes like Luos being more romantic than others, how true is this?
Sexual feelings and reactions are individual and cannot be ascribed to a general tribe. In fact, there is no scientific basis of labeling a whole tribe as romantic. If anybody learns to be sexually active and romantic, they will be irrespective of tribe. What I tell my clients is to develop an interest in being romantic, intimate and sexual activity in order to have a satisfying sexual experience.
- 13. There are couples who watch pornographic videos or materials as a way of enhancing their sexuality, is this recommendable?
What I would say is that pornography is acting and so it is not reality. You cannot transfer what you see on porn to real life since it is people acting. As much as I would not want to condemn anyone for watching porn to improve their sexual experience, they should learn to differentiate between reality and acting. The moment you make your partner a porn star, there will be a miss.
- 14. What is the danger of the so called kunyonga/masturbation, use of dildos, and sexual toys for sexual satisfaction?
I can say this is a stage in life when one can find himself or herself in if they don’t have a sexual partner. However, when it becomes too much, it will lead to a social issue as someone will find no need of a looking for a life partner. Naturally, sex should happen between two people of the opposite sex and not through self-gratification.
- 15. How is it that a couple claims to be in a toxic relationship yet the wife is always pregnant?
Couples will always have conflicts although there is one that goes to extreme end. There is a thin line between love and hate, which can alternate at any time. At one time, the couple could be in love while at another, they could be in hate situation. If your relationship is becoming toxic, it is better to seek help or run for your life when necessary if all means are not working.
- 16. How do sexologists avoid finding themselves in a precarious situation when handling an emotionally or sexually deprived client of the opposite sex?
Practitioners in our field are required to adhere to a code of professional conduct at any given time. Our conducts are monitored very closely both at the national and global level. Actually, am a member of the International Society of Sexual Medicine Ethics Committee, so I am part of those managing ethics issues among sexual experts across the world to ensure the profession is safe.
- 17. How can you rate the sexual health management in Kenya?
Very poor; there are very few professionals; a lot of myths, stigma, making a lot of people suffer sexually related challenges in silence. The existing laws on sexual matters are not even well implemented. A good example is the FGM policy which despite being enforced years ago, the practicing is still persisting in many communities today. Our children are not educated on sexuality early enough and so they grow up not having enough knowledge on matters sexuality.
- 18. We still have many unplanned children despite family planning campaigns.. your views?
First, not everyone has access to family planning resources yet sex continues. Secondly, they used to be family campaigns but they stopped long time ago, I guess it was because of financial constraints. The government needs to put in resources to make family planning available, and offer counseling services and even support those who have conceived without planning for a child.
- 19. How is celibacy possible?
Sex is a matter of the mind and if one conditions his or her mind to abstain from active sexual life, and then it is possible to do it. However, remember one will still have sexual feelings and desires and so they will have things like wet dreams which go to satisfy those desires.