Teens and contraceptives; to give or not to give?

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What you need to know:

  • President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered County commissioners to carry out a nationwide crackdown on private clinics offering emergency contraceptives to underage girls.
  • The Catholic Church has also opposed the proposal of contraceptives being administered on adolescents saying it will encourage immorality.
  • Gladys Chania, a child and adult psychologist, said enabling the adolescents to have access to contraceptives is giving them the permit to engage in irresponsible sexual behaviour.
  • Kenya Female Advisory Organisation Executive Director says the adolescents should be allowed to access contraceptives just like everybody else to curb teenage pregnancies.

 Police in Kakamega County are investigating a community health worker accused of administering birth control on four school girls.

The girls said they were lured by the health worker who asked them to have the implants inserted on their arms. Aged between 14 and 16, the girls said they were approached by the health worker who promised to give them free pads if they accompanied her to Musanda Health Centre in Lurambi.

When they got to the health facility, the girls said they were taken through a guidance and counselling session by a nurse before the implants were inserted in their arms.

The issue of teenagers getting access to contraceptives has been opposed by some health stakeholders. 
Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered County commissioners to carry out a nationwide crackdown on private clinics offering emergency contraceptives to underage girls.

SEXUAL PROMISCUITY

He said such practitioners are inculcating a culture of sexual promiscuity for sex pests, who procure such services for the girls and providing “sexual insurance” for the minors.

Education Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Zack Kinuthia said Mr Kenyatta, keen on finding a lasting solution against teenage pregnancies, abortions and runway sexual promiscuity, identified the threat that unscrupulous medical practitioners pose to the future of many girls.

The Catholic Church has also opposed the proposal of contraceptives being administered on adolescents saying it will encourage immorality.

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has particularly condemned the proposed Reproductive Health Bill sponsored by Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, which is seen as advocating for introduction of sex education and contraceptives to adolescents.

PARENTAL CONSENT

The Bill requires the national and county governments to provide contraceptives to adolescents and give them information on reproductive services without parental consent protections.

The government will integrate these measures with a new comprehensive sex education syllabus designed to provide “age-appropriate” information on reproductive health.

Nakuru Diocese Catholic Maurice Muhatia, who read a statement on behalf of the Catholic bishops last month, argued that the term “age-appropriate” as used in the Bill is ineffective in protecting children from exposure to explicit and ideologically corrosive sex education.

“We call upon Christians and people of goodwill to stand up and defend the family unit, dignity of our children, the positive values of our people and our identities as Kenyans. We shall advocate for the responsibility of the Ministry of Education through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development to provide age-appropriate and value-based human sexuality education to learners,” said Bishop Muhatia.

Gladys Chania, a child and adult psychologist, said enabling the adolescents to have access to contraceptives is giving them the permit to engage in irresponsible sexual behaviour.

EARLY SEX

“A teenager, just like the name suggests, is a child under care. Allowing them freedom to contraceptives is, therefore, like giving them permission to engage in early sex. Apart from early pregnancies, early sex has other health effects like HPV which causes diseases like cervical cancer,” she said.

However, the Kenya Female Advisory Organisation (Kefeado) Executive Director Ms Easter Oketch argues that the nationwide crackdown on private clinics offering emergency contraceptives to underage girls is not the only solution to teenage pregnancies.

Ms Oketch says the adolescents should be allowed to access contraceptives just like everybody else to curb teenage pregnancies.

She also observes the adolescents (both boys and girls) should be assisted to have sexual reproductive information so that they can fully understand their bodies and body changes.

As of 2019, latest statistics from Global Childhood, shows that Kenya has the third-highest teen pregnancy rates with 82 births per 1,000 births.

NAROK COUNTY

A National Council on Population and Development (NCPD) report titled ‘Teenage Pregnancy Situation in Kenya’ released in March, put the national teenage pregnancy prevalence at 18 per cent. The report indicated one in five girls aged between 15 and 19 are pregnant.

Narok County leads the pack with 40 per cent of girls (two in every five) pregnant followed by Homa Bay (33 per cent), West Pokot (29 per cent), Tana River and Nyamira (28 per cent).

Murang’a County had the lowest teenage pregnancy rate at six percent followed by Nyeri (seven per cent), Embu (eight per cent), Elgeyo Marakwet (nine per cent) and Nyandarua (10 per cent).

The National Aids Control Council in 2018 reported that 430,825 teens aged between 10-19 attended at least one antenatal clinic session in a public health facility.

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