Nominated Senator Judith Sijeny sponsored the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014. The bill itself brought intense public controversy. There were claims that the Bill intends to provide school-going children with condoms.
The Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 came amidst a campaign launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in early 2015. The new global campaign aimed to scale up the war against HIV/AIDS. The campaign aimed to reduce the rising incidences of HIV and AIDS among teenagers.
The campaign banner was the ‘All in the Campaign to end Adolescents AIDS’. However, some bloggers and the media smeared this campaign and comically labeled it as ‘Condoms for Kids’.
Those opposed to the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 also said it intended to provide school-going children with condoms.
In November 2015, police and NACADA officials in Eldoret arrested over 500 teenage students in a discotheque. The students were having an orgy. The police and NACADA officials discovered sachets of banned alcoholic drinks. They also found packets of used and unused condoms. The students were also abusing khat (miraa) in the whole mix-up.
The incident happened two months after another similar one took place in Kirinyaga County. Police arrested a bunch of forty-five students from various secondary schools in Nyeri and Kirinyaga County. The police put them under arrest for smoking marijuana and tobacco. They were also having sex inside the bus the police impounded. The police detained the forty-five students at a police station in Kirinyaga County.
Many other cases of teenagers having underage sex circulate widely in the media. They raise alarm on how widely teenage children are engaging in drug abuse and underage unprotected sex.
Ironically, the Ministry of Health opposed the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014. It claimed that the Bill “poses a threat and acts as a recipe for operational and legal chaos in the health sector.” The then Health Ministry Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the provision of condoms to schoolchildren will motivate them to engage in premature sex.
Supporters of the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 say it will reduce instances of HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). It will also curb the rising instances of teenage pregnancies.
The opponents say the Bill will erode the children’s’ moral, religious and cultural values. They say it will open a floodgate for adolescents to access contraceptives easily and to procure abortions.
Yours truly thinks the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 will provide the solution to teenagers engaging in unprotected sex. The society needs to wake up to the reality that adolescents nowadays become sexually aware earlier than before. The influence of technology like the media and social media, and peer pressure, are fueling teenage sex.
Objectives of the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014
The Memorandum of Objects and Reasons in the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 makes its intentions clear. In this case, two important objectives take prominence.
First, the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 intends to provide a mechanism to achieve reproductive rights. The State shall guarantee these reproductive rights. The choices and decisions made in pursuing reproductive rights shall not be subject to coercion.
The Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 emphasizes the need for respect and fulfilment of reproductive health rights. This applies in promoting the rights and welfare of all, especially for couples, adults, women, and adolescents.
Secondly, the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 pursues the importance of reproductive health for adolescents and persons with unstable minds. It intends to address their neglect when it comes to reproductive health rights.
The Senate has shown its unwearied support for the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014. It even sought public participation on the Bill. It organized several public participation forums to seek input and to observe different reactions.
Currently, the Bill is at the Second Reading of the Senate. This is where the MPs discuss the main principles of the Bill.
The Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 will address teenage reproductive health rights
The Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 intends to provide teenagers with “adolescent friendly reproductive health services” (Section 33).
First, the bill intends to provide reproductive health and sexual information and education. It will also provide a conducive environment for children to access such information.
Secondly, the Bill intends to provide reproductive health services that are confidential, comprehensive, non-judgmental, and affordable.
Thirdly, the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 seeks policies to protect adolescents from physical and sexual violence and discrimination. This includes cultural practices that violate the reproductive health rights of adolescents. (Section 34)
Therefore, it is a misconception that the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 will promote sex among teenagers. It does not intend to promote premature sex, erosion of values and the provision of adult contraceptives. Rather, with the necessary amendments, it aims to strengthen and safeguard the reproductive health rights of children.
Concisely, what is crucial now is to safeguard the purpose of the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014. There is also a need to educate and sensitize the public on the essential aspects of the Bill. This will address the prevailing ignorance, misinformation, and misunderstanding that the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 will spoil their children.
(To get a copy of the bill click here.)