Empowering Women or Pleasing Men? Analyzing Male Views on Female Condom Use in Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Cameroon

Usage rates of female condoms are low throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Programs have traditionally presented female condoms as a means of women’s empowerment; however, prevailing gender norms in Sub-Saharan Africa assign sexual decision making to men, suggesting that male acceptance is imperative for increased use. This study examined data collected in 2011 on perceptions of and experiences with female condoms from men in Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Cameroon.

The study found that perceived advantages of female condoms over other protection methods were enhanced pleasure, effectiveness and lack of side effects. Single and married men preferred using female condoms with stable rather than casual partners, and for purposes of contraception rather than protection from infections. In Cameroon and Nigeria, where contraceptive rates are lower than in Zimbabwe, men favored female condoms as a contraceptive device. Its acceptability as a method of protection from HIV infection is greater in highly AIDS-affected Zimbabwe than in the other two countries. In Cameroon, some men did report regular use of female condoms in casual encounters. Initiation of female condom use by men’s stable partners was not acceptable in any of the countries.

The authors conclude that these findings suggest the importance of accounting for local contexts and targeting both men and women in campaigns to promote female condom use.