The Global Gag Rule – what it means for Kenyan women and girls

Evelyn Samba Youth Empowerment

Two years after the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy – better known as the Global Gag Rule – what impact is it having on the lives of those people most reliant on external funding to access family planning services. Our Kenya Country Director Evelyn Samba, outlines the realities of the situation in Kenya.


What will change?

The reinstatement of the Mexico Policy – better known as the Global Gag Rule – has had devastating effects on the access to sexual and reproductive health rights by women and girls in Kenya.

In many rural and far-to-reach areas or informal settlements in Kenya, clinics run by not for profit organisations were the only source of information on sexual reproductive & health care provision. Many are no longer operating owing to the loss of funds because of the Mexico City policy; other clinics have had to cut back on their operations and lay off much needed staff so that they can reduce their spending.

How will they suffer from the rule?

Many women and girls, especially poor and rural women who relied on clinics run by not for profit organisations, now have to walk long distances to public health facilities where services are not guaranteed.  Frequent strikes by public health sector personnel protesting poor working conditions have also proven an obstacle to women and girls being able to exercise their sexual reproductive health and rights. The closure of facilities and services on account of the Mexico City policy leaves poor women and girls without an alternative.

The survival of many women and their children is now under threat as women in these communities are unable to prevent, delay or space out childbirth so that they can continue to work their farms to provide for their families.

Many women have lost control over their sexuality because they no longer have access to life-saving information on sexual reproductive health. Their ability to acquire family planning commodities has been impeded, leaving them at the mercy of deeply entrenched cultural and societal beliefs where a woman’s worth is dictated by the number of children she can bear. What is more, an increase in domestic violence has also been reported.

What all this means is that adolescent girls in the worst affected parts of Kenya have lost their ability to make informed choices and negotiate for safe becuase they no longer have to condoms and to contraceptives. In the informal settlements of Nairobi for instance, where one in five (17%) girls aged 15-19 years have begun childbearing, unsafe abortion is on the rise.

Sex and sexuality are taboo topics in many communities.  The school system has not been able to provide vital information on sexual and reproductive health and rights because of the strong position that faith groups have taken on sex education in schools. Only 13% of the public health facilities in Kenya offer youth friendly services, yet statistics show that AIDS-related deaths are highest among young people aged below 24 years, as more and more young people are sexually active at younger ages.

The evidence is clear. The denial of the opportunity to provide young people with information on sexuality is costing them their lives. And the Global Gag Rule is perpetuating this situation.