Conflicting messages on the length of time that Ebola remains in semen after recovery make education and prevention confusing. We need to avoid mixed messages and focus on girls’ rights, says anthropologist Pauline Oosterhoff. When I met members of a women’s secret society in Sierra Leone this February, they proposed drastic measures to stop Ebola from spreading through sexual contact. All survivors should be quarantined for three months, they said. Male survivors need to be locked up because they cannot control their urge to have sex. Women need to be locked up because they cannot stop their husbands from forcing sex upon them.
When I asked them whether using condoms might be easier than quarantine, I was greeted with rolling eyes and hissing. Their men would never accept this. “They would put holes in the condoms as soon as they saw them”. Female condoms? Forget it. “They are disgusting. They get stuck deep into women’s body.”