Fri Sep 22 09:57:50 SAST 2017

It's not about sex: health department defend 'girls on top' billboard

By Jan Bornman | 2017-09-13 14:14:32.0

“Who says girls don’t want to be on top?”

That is the slogan in a department of health initiative to fight HIV infections in South Africa‚ used on a “She Conquers” campaign billboard which has caused outrage.

Eve Dmochowska‚ a Johannesburg resident‚ complained on Facebook that the tagline was sexually suggestive.

“It’s disgusting‚ degrading and completely unacceptable‚” she wrote.

“Must I explain to my 15-year-old daughter what her government means when it questions why she ‘doesn’t want to be on top’?“

“Must I explain to her that in actual fact she really ‘does’ want to be on top‚ and why she deserves to be on top‚ and why she CAN be on top — because we are talking about her future‚ and not a sex position?” wrote Dmochowska.

She said that she intended on laying a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority.

However‚ Dr Yogan Pillay‚ deputy director-general for the HIV‚ TB‚ and maternal and child health programmes at the department of health‚ said the campaign was anything but a sexual reference.

“Why would we want to encourage reckless sexual behaviour?” he said.

Pillay said the billboards were part of the department’s campaign to break the cycle of new HIV infections‚ to decrease teenage pregnancies‚ to raise awareness and decrease the amount of sexual violence against girls and young women‚ to keep people in school and encourage them to reach for their dreams.

“It’s actually a very positive message focussing on schooling. It’s not about sex‚” Pillay said.

“We want them to focus on finishing school so they can reach the top. How else can you reach the top and fulfil your dreams‚ if you drop out of school‚” he said.

He said the department came up with the messages following focus group discussions with young people on what messages will work.

However‚ Dmochowska and other people who commented on her Facebook post weren’t convinced.

“Really? Must we‚ as women‚ always bear the burden of sexual innuendo? Is it conceivable that the very institutions which are set up to prevent this discrimination‚ don’t know themselves how to avoid it?” she wrote.

Shawn Graaff‚ who also commented on the post‚ said: “This is despicable. It’s one thing if it was advertising targeted at adults‚ but they’re communicating to underage girls!“