The Senate in Kenya is currently debating the Reproductive Health Care Bill which among other things proposes to facilitate the provision of adolescent –friendly reproductive health and sexual health information and education. The Bill also obligates national and county governments to provide contraceptives and family planning services, including contraceptive options, counseling, information and education.
According to the mover of the Bill, Senator Judith Sijeny, the Bill also seeks to guarantee confidential, comprehensive, non-judgmental and affordable reproductive health services to adolescents (10-17 years). The Bill further states that providing such information would not require the consent of the adolescent’s parent or guardian. This however has not gone down well with a section of clerics and parents who feel that such education should begin at 14 as those below that age are too young. Sex education is schools as always been a hotly contested issue in Kenya since some sectors perceive this to mean young people will be “licensed” to engage in sexual acts.
In 2013, it was reported in the media that Kenya’s youngest mother was aged ten years old. The then primary school pupil in Kericho County gave birth via caesarian section to a 2.8kg baby. At the time, the incident created uproar all across the country which led to renewed calls for age appropriate sex education in schools. However pressure from the clergy and parents associations saw debate on the matter take a back seat. This is however likely to change as the Bill is debated in the Senate.
Other provisions under the Bill include: Healthcare providers would be required to explain the advantages and disadvantages of contraceptives they are prescribing to their clients to ensure informed consent; Mandatory free antenatal and delivery services at every public hospital (whether national or county); No denial of emergency medical treatment under whatever circumstances, including inability to foot bills
The Bill also provides for a special tribunal – Reproductive and Child Health Care Tribunal – to hear complaints arising from the Bill. The tribunal would enjoy powers of a subordinate court.