Free Condoms for Participants in 2012 Osun Osogbo Festival

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Worshippers collecting the sacred water from the Osun River during the festival. This is believed to bring them fertility and divine favour (Credits: webhykers.com)

The Osun Osogbo Festival, an event which draws tourists from all over the world, is known for the fertility purposes it serves for the culture to which it belongs since its inception. The festival takes place annually at the Osun Grove, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, reports emerging about this year’s edition of the festival seem to suggest that a new dimension is being introduced to the festival.

A few weeks ago it was announced that popular Yoruba erotic singer, St. Janet was part of the lineup of artistes that will be performing at the festival this year. This raised questions regarding the relevance of the erotic performer to the festival. The organizers of the event can easily defend the decision on the ground that the festival is a fertility festival. In fact they can make reference another fertility festival which celebrates eroticism – the Oke’badan Festival.

But recent developments on this year’s edition of the festival have confirmed that either the organizers are truly confused on what they intend to achieve with the festival, or they simply want to promote casual sex. The state government has promised to donate condoms and conduct free HIV/AIDS tests during the Osun Osogbo Festival grand finale. And, the chairperson, Osun Osogbo HIV/AIDS Prevention Committee, Dr Temitope Ilori, said the initiative was aimed at checking the spread of the disease during the festival.

Also, the statement by the Press Officer of the Ministry of Health, Mr Niyi Kolawole, said “The initiative would halt the spread of the disease and ensure that uninfected people are free of the virus.” And, Ilori said any visitor to the Osun Osogbo grove was free to “visit the Osun State HIV/AIDS stands and get free condoms.”

A discerning observer would ask: “of what use are contraceptives in a festival which seeks to promote fertility?” The argument about the prevention of HIV/AIDS cannot hold water also, because couples who want children would – HIV or not – not be expected to be using condoms during the festival. What the Osogbo HIV/AIDS Prevention Committee could have done is to make arrangements for the counseling of infected couples on how to have babies who are HIV-free. Meanwhile, the Consultant, Osun Osogbo Festival, Chief Ayo Olumoko, has assured visitors that this year’s event will be memorable and hitch-free.

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