Women access sexual and reproductive health service during May 28 celebrations in Mombasa Kenya

Kenya Senate: Amend And Pass The Reproductive Health Care Bill Now!

By Robert Aseda

 

 

We have had the statistics over and over again. The Kenya Demographic Health Surveys, the Multiple Cluster Indicator Surveys, the Kenya AIDS Indicator Surveys, the Google Zeitgeist results, the census reports all tell us one thing- that the Kenyan young people are not where there they need to be when it comes to issues of health in general and reproductive health in particular.

If the fact that the most asked questions online by young people in Kenya has been ‘What is Sex?’ and “how to abort” cannot jolt us into immediate action, then the fact that the group with the highest HIV/AIDS infections rate are girls between twenty and twenty four or the gory details of ten year old mothers we see every day on televisions and hear in radios should definitely do it for us.

It’s a huge shame that they don’t.

My people perish because of lack of knowledge, the good book tells us. We live in a ‘pious’ society which would rather hide her head in the sand and hope the danger has gone away. Yet it still lurks in the neighborhood waiting to pounce on our ‘Africanness’ under our collective watch.

A slightly weaker version of the ‘controversial’ Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 finally made its way back to the floor of the Senate after it first appeared in the public eye last year. Just as was the case last year, it seems there is still no love lost for attempts to ‘sneak in” the comprehensive sexuality education in our school curriculum and advocate for access to youth friendly reproductive health services.

Some of the adjectives used to describe the Bill would have passed as interesting hadn’t these issues been so grave.

A quick online poll by Citizen Television revealed that over six out of ten Kenyans were in agreement with the need for young people to access sexual and reproductive health information and services, which is an improvement from a similar poll last year.

But this discussion is bigger than democracy or religious inclinations or even political opportunism. This debate needs to strongly anchored in human rights, the harsh realities of our world today and the vision we have for our young people.

After all it’s only fools who keep on doing things the same way while expecting different results.

Last year NAYA KENYA made our submissions to the Senate and published several articles on the local dailies on some of the myths peddled against the Reproductive Health Care Bill including that it will encourage young people to start having sexual relationships at young ages, or it will encourage promiscuity or that it is a foreign agenda. The reality is that borrowing successful ideas does not mean we are less African, it means that we are a people keen on learning and rewriting our stories. It means that we want our young people to live long enough to power our nations to the same fete young people from the Asian tigers took their nations to.

We therefore call upon the Senate to be the Solomon’s of our generation and ensure that young people do not have to rush to Uncle Google to get information they so crave if that information can be provided in a controlled setting and issued in a way that recognizes different packages for different age sets.

We call upon our Senate to ensure that young people do not have to go to dingy corners illuminated with whacky quacks in order to get a service that they would have otherwise accessed at youth friendly centers in a manner that is agreeable and friendly to them.

However, the clause on parental consent while accessing reproductive health services for those under eighteen needs to be amended. After all, nobody asks for parental consent when engaging in sexual activities, why would they start when seeking reproductive health services?

This ASKS are not out of the blues. They are based on promises based in international declarations, national policies and guidelines that just need to be strengthened further by provisions in an act of parliament.

 

 

This article was originally published in NAYA KENYA website.

ROBERT ASEDA is the Partnerships and Policy Officer at the Network for Adolescents and Youth of Africa-Kenya Chapter, a youth led advocacy network that does sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy. He has a BSc. Population Health from Kenyatta University. He has undergone training on budget advocacy, policy advocacy and media advocacy by Planned Parenthood Global and Choice for Youth and Sexuality of the Netherlands. He has been involved in the ICPD process and is currently the chairman of the National Youth Consortium on the POST2015 Development Agenda comprising of young people from organizations working in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights in Kenya. He is also a radio personality, a creative blogger, poet and a regular contributor to local dailies in Kenya. Connect with him on twitter: @Varaq

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