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We need law to guard teen health - experts

Reproductive Health - By Jeckonia Otieno | November 2nd 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Adolescents face various health challenges such as early pregnancies and HIV and Aids.

Experts in reproductive health are pushing for a single law that will handle all issues governing adolescent health. A set of laws falling under different sections, the say, have made it impossible to resolutely deal with issues surrounding the health of young people.

Some of these issues include teenage pregnancies, HIV and Aids, as well as access to reproductive health information and services.

Some of the laws the experts said should be amalgamated include the Basic Education Act 2013 and the Sexual Offences Act.

Mwangi Mongare, an assistant Director of Children’s Services in the State Department for Social Protection said in an interview that while it goes beyond sex to pertinent issues like reproductive health services, children’s rights must be upheld.

“Different laws govern matters regarding children but the principle law is the Children’s Act of 2001, which is undergoing a repeal now and the document has gone to Parliament,” said Mongare.

Seif Jira, the Dream Achievers Youth Organisation executive director, a sexual reproductive health entity, opined that the argument goes beyond sexuality.

He said one of the aspects is HIV and Aids among young people, which is a big challenge.

“We have the Health Act of 2017, which states that at the age of 15, a child can give consent to be tested for HIV while below 15 there has to be consent from parents or guardians,” Jira said.

Totenda Songore, a reproductive health advocate from Zimbabwe said teen reproductive health was a contentious issue because Africans have grown to understand that young people should not talk about reproductive health matters.

He stated the need to realise that if as a continent Africa does not continue looking at its laws and policies, it will lose an opportunity to align legislation policies to protect children in a dynamic world.

“Young people are exposed to global sexual practices. Everyone including religious and political leaders have a duty to safeguard the lives of young people,” said Songore.

Last year, when two Court of Appeal judges opined that the age of consent for sex should be lowered, there was anger and backlash in the country.

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