Contraception in Malta has found itself drowning in a sea of criticism lately, and there’s good reason for it. From pigeons being put first to sexual health policies with data that are decades old, a recent Lovin Malta survey only reinforces what we already knew – people want change.
In fact, out of all 769 respondents, a whopping 81.5% agreed that contraception should either be free or subsidised and below is a list of their reasons
But before we get into that, let’s understand what this survey is and why it was conducted.
Lovin Malta created a survey about the state of sex on the island because we wanted to hear about your opinions and experiences.
And boy, did we.
Over 700 women, men and non-binary people of all ages and walks of life completed this questionnaire and so we started a multi-article series that addresses different aspects of the survey’s answers.
In this article, we’re talking about contraception (in case you haven’t yet guessed it) and the reasons you guys thought that it should or shouldn’t be subsidised or made completely free.
So without further ado, here are just a couple of the reasons why 603 people living in Malta believe that contraceptives should be made free or subsidised.
1. Contraceptives shouldn’t be a privilege
Many respondents argued that safe sex shouldn’t be a luxury saved only for the people who can afford it.
“It should be available to all social classes,” said one man in his 20s who believes that contraception should be free.
“Make them more accessible to individuals from lower socioeconomic groups who tend to have higher teenage pregnancies and early school-leaving age – this might help to reduce these rates slightly,” said another man in his 20s who believes that contraceptives should be subsidised.
“Condoms are cheap enough, however, should someone wish to go on the pill they may not have the monthly income to support that and it’s not fair that burden falls only on women when both sexes stand to benefit,” said a woman in her 30s who agrees with subsidisation.
“Because contraceptives shouldn’t be a privilege. Also the most effective tend to be the most expensive,” said another woman who thinks that contraception should be free.
“Poorer individuals may not be able to afford it and hence may lead to lack of protection,” said a woman in her 30s who believes in the subsidisation of contraception.
“Because there are people who can’t afford the Pill for example or other more delicate procedures like the coil. At the end of the day we are trying to enjoy sex responsibly,” said another respondent.
This is a pretty fair argument. Since STDs and unwanted pregnancies do not discriminate against the poor or the rich, accessing the protection from these life-altering burdens shouldn’t either.
Everybody should have an equal chance at being able to protect themselves, some would even say that less financially comfortable people should be protected even more.
“Those who cannot afford them are the ones who need them most,” said a woman who believes contraception should be free.
If you think about it, those who can’t afford contraception most likely cannot afford a child either – so how about we do our best at trying to give these people as many options of protection as we can? Since, you know, abortion in Malta is illegal.
2. Some contraceptives are medication, others prevent disease
There were a couple of respondents who saw contraception, namely hormonal ones, for its other uses.
Hormonal contraceptives are often used to relieve the symptoms of a large number of medical conditions that women and womb bearers suffer from.
PCOS – experienced by one in 10 women, endometriosis – experienced by 10% of women, PMS – experienced by three in four women, and PMDD – experienced by one in 20 women, to name a few.
“Too many unwanted pregnancies but more importantly, people like me use certain contraceptives for health reasons so we have no choice but to spend tonnes of money just to stay healthy,” said a woman in her 20s who believes they should be free.
On a similar note, others argued that STDs are medical issues, so contraception should be seen as preventative measures under the category of public health.
“Contraceptives fall under the category of public health, and public health should be free. Unless we are trying to stigmatise sex or continue to enforce the shame around it. What’s more, it is a truly broken and hypocritical misogynist state that bans abortion and then does not give out contraception freely,” said a woman in her 30s.
“Just like there is free healthcare for everything else, there should be free condoms. Reduce the risk of spreading STDs,” said a man in his 20s.
“Promoting safe sex is the key to less sexual related disorders,” said a woman who believes contraceptives should be subsidised.
3. In general, safe sex is good for Malta
A lot of respondents pointed out that free or subsidised contraception will help control the overwhelming rates of teen pregnancy and the abysmal statistics surrounding STDs in Malta, it will also help control poverty and ever-increasing population on the island.
In case you were wondering what exactly were these abysmal statistics, here you go:
Only 2% of the population visited Mater Dei’s Genitourinary (GU) clinic in 2019 to get tested for STDs and since then, rates of infection have consistently climbed.
Five people contract HIV every month in Malta and nearly 800 people were found with HPV in 2019.
To add insult to injury, earlier this year, the GU clinic warned that there has been a worrying rise in STIs in Malta among men who reported to have attended group sex parties.
Furthermore, since Malta only has one government-sponsored GU clinic, offering free or subsidised contraceptives might relieve the mountains of pressure that the understaffed institution endures.
“Less STDs and less unwanted pregnancies less money spent on public health in the long run,” said a woman in her 20s.
“We must accept that people are having intercourse with multiple partners. Also our STI testing rates are incredibly low,” said a man in his 20s who believes contraception should be free.
To build on this, some respondents said that prevention is actually cheaper than cure.
“Planned parenthood saves much more money than it costs. It’s a good investment,” said another man, this time in his 30s.
While others explained that making contraceptives more affordable may effectively control the birth rate in Malta.
“To reduce the population in the future and reduce the suffering of children being born to parents who can’t afford them,” said a woman in her 30s.
“Especially since abortion is illegal, getting our hands on free condoms, free birth control would be helpful otherwise pregnancy will rage throughout this country even more,” said another respondent.
“If the government wants to control the population numbers, they need to make contraceptives accessible to all,” another respondent explained.
4. Teens have sex, not money
One thing that was mentioned here and there was that often, teens can’t afford regular contraception and thus rely on much less effective methods.
“Teenagers who are just starting to get interested in other people are still going to go ahead and do it even if they can’t afford the contraception, kids in the early teenage years do not have a lot of disposable cash available to them, and an error in judgement for that moment could lead to life long consequences,” a man in his 20s relayed.
“Making Condoms free is not enough – to have low-income communities receive free contraceptives can help so many young teenage girls from falling pregnant and having to carry a child to term because of her circumstances,” said another person in their 20s.
“Everyone should have access to free contraception especially the younger generation (its sad pigeons got it before we did),” explained a woman in her 20s.
Not to sound like a broken record but Malta does have the highest rates of teen pregnancy in Southern Europe, in fact, between September 2018 and July 2019, 30 school girls who attended secondary school got pregnant.
This had a direct effect on the girls’ educational prospects with only seven out of the 30 girls completing the academic year.
What can free or subsidised contraceptives do to help curb this longstanding and worrying issue?
Well, it can, and it will (as it has in several other EU countries) incentivise teens to prioritise their safety while also exploring their pleasure. Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and France all offer free contraception to minors and thus have some of the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe.
Meanwhile, Britain offers several forms of contraceptives free to all and France has recently extended this service to women aged 18 to 25 based on studies and surveys that illustrated the decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.
BONUS: “Why should I pay for your sex life?”
Among the landslide majority that agreed with either subsidised or free contraception came the naysayers who believe that if you choose to have sex, paying for protection should be your responsibility.
“Why should it be free? It’s just another product that you buy for your needs,” said a man in his 30s.
While others believe that people would ‘exploit’ the contraceptives, whatever that means.
“If they were free individuals would exploit them,” said a girl in her teens
“Makes no sense to be free, many would end up thrown away because people start amassing them for nothing. Being used for wrong reasons simply because they are free is also a risk,” said a man in his 20s who believes that contraceptives should be subsidised.
Although sure, it is up to personal choice whether or not to have sex, but it is also such a basic activity that all communities and classes enjoy. Everyone should have the chance to protect themselves from unsafe sex.
The proof is there, the public outcry is there and the problematic consequences are most definitely there. What isn’t there though is the slightest bit of interest taken by the government to improve the dire state that sexual and reproductive health have been left to rot in.
Abortion is illegal, contraceptives are unsubsidised, teenage pregnancies are through the roof, sexual education is touch-and-go and we have only one state-funded GU clinic that is severely understaffed. For a developed EU country that enjoys boasting about its more-than-decent economy, this shit is unacceptable.
Do you think contraception should be free or subsidised?