It is not common for a man in Uganda to come out publicly about his sexual life, especially so, if it involves a procedure many men still fear to talk about or even undergo. But 47-year-old Musa Kanene has defied this norm and openly talks about what made him undergo a vasectomy.
It all started in 1983, when Kanene, then a young soldier, was fighting alongside the National Resistance Army, the rebel outfit that would bring President Museveni to power. With the mobile lifestyle of the military, this meant that soldiers moved from one station to another quite often. During such mobility, Kanene found solace in siring children at any given opportunity.
“The orders of transfer always came abruptly. And I never moved with the woman I had at a particular time. I would always find a new woman in another district or area where I was deployed. I lived a careless lifestyle and fathered children all over the place,” he narrates, adding that it ceased becoming news if a woman called to inform him that she was expecting his child.
“In fact, I never even questioned any of them because all my children look like me. And I was always aware when I made a woman pregnant,” Kanene says of his days in the army.
Fathering 25 children
In fact, he ended up fathering 25 children from six women. Of these children, 19 are alive. And even though as a young man Kanene never dreamt of having a big family, he has no regrets of having fathered all these children. He retired from the army at the rank of Lieutenant in 2000, and is now employed as a boda boda operator.
So what made him change his mind and want to stop having children? Kanene says his turning point came in 2005. At the time, he had 14 children. It was at this point that he felt the number of children he had were enough, and needed to find a long-term solution that would make him unable to impregnate any of his wives again.
“But before I could do that, I tested for HIV. Given the lifestyle I was living as a soldier, as well as my sexual behaviour, I was not sure if I had many years to live. Nevertheless, I felt a strong need to plan for my children when I still had the time, says Kanene.
After several HIV tests all turned negative, Kanene decided he would stick to only two wives. After long consideration, Kanene walked into the Kavule- based Marie Stopes Clinic in Bwaise, a Kampala suburb to have a vasectomy performed on him. He had heard about the procedure through a radio campaign.
“I explained my situation to the doctor and he asked why I was choosing permanent method when I was just 30. When I told him the number of children I had, he immediately gave me an appointment in three days,” says Kenene.But he did not return to the clinic as had been scheduled because his friends, with whom he had shared his intentions, discouraged him, claiming it would cause him impotence.
Although the thought of becoming impotent discouraged Kanene from his own plan, what he did not let go was his wish to stop having more children. And so he asked his wife to go for family planning.
He escorted her to a private clinic where she was given a depo provera, an injectable contraceptive method. However with this method, she would need to get a new shot after every three months. Kanene’s wife managed to stay on family planning for only eight months.
He says his wife started to experience side effects from the use of the contraceptive including heavy and prolonged menstrual flow and headache, which prompted her to stop using the method, but she did not inform her husband.
“When she got pregnant again, I became frustrated and confused. And my elder wife also became pregnant about the same time,” Kanene explains
Between 2005 and 2014 when he first consulted a doctor about the possibility of having a vasectomy, and when he finally had the procedure carried out in January this year, Kanene says he had fathered six more children.
At this point he was convinced that no one was going to help him to stop having children – not even his wives. And when another opportunity presented itself at one of the Marie Stopes outreaches in Nsambya, a Kampala suburb, Kanene embraced it.
The Marie Stopes outreach programme involves using a mobile van goes around communities offering several services such as family planning, HIV testing and counseling. Kanene walked into the van and asked about vasectomy – a birth control procedure that involves cutting the tubes that carry a man’s sperm from his scrotum to testicles so that he cannot make a woman pregnant.