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Home / Health & Science

Leaders sharply divided over reproductive health Bill

Health & ScienceBy Moses Munti Njagi | Tue,Jun 24 2014 00:00:00 UTC | 2 min read

Sharp divisions emerged during a public forum organised by the Senate in Nairobi to discuss the controversial Bill seeking to allow minors to be given contraceptives.

Religious organisations were especially vocal in their opposition to the Bill, even as its architect, nominated Senator Judith Sijeny, rubbished claims that the proposed law was advocating for distribution of contraceptives to school children.

While some human rights groups backed the draft law, though calling for some amendments, the church, notably Catholics and Protestants, rejected the draft law saying it was in violation of children-friendly laws and against religious, moral and cultural values.

Those opposing the Bill are especially against a clause allowing offering of reproductive health services to adolescents, with religious organisations arguing this could open room for minors to have easy access to contraceptives and procure abortion.

But Sijeny defended the Reproductive Health Care Bill, saying it was meant to cure the challenge experienced by minors in accessing reproductive health services, leading to such cases as death in the event they seek illicit means of abortion.

"This Bill does not advocate for distribution of contraceptives in schools as has wrongly been stated. Members of the public should look at this Bill wholly and not restrict themselves to issues of sexuality. It also caters for counselling services and provision of health information," she said.

But making a presentation on behalf of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ms Augosto Muthigani called for the recall of the proposed law, saying it was not in the best interest of children.

She further said that key stakeholders such as parents and the Ministry of Education were left out in the drafting of the law.

"This Bill is not in the interest of children. It is also very much against our religious, moral and cultural values," she argued.

A representative of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) Mr Papoy Gregory also opposed the proposed law, saying it raises emotive issues, which were very sensitive even during the campaigns for the Constitution referendum, including issues of terminating of pregnancy.

The Senate Committee on Health Chairman Dr Mohammed Kuti welcomed the debate on the Bill, saying it had provided the perfect stage for public participation in enactment of the law.

"We need to strike a balance between our cultural, religious and moral values, while also providing safeguards to human life. There has been a rise in cases of deaths through illegal abortion and this is what we intend to cure through this law," said the Isiolo Senator.

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