Laid Out Objectives of the Bill Many terms remain undefined and vague thus open to any interpretation. While the objectives of the Reproductive Health Bill 2014 bill are laid out as to:
- Provide a framework for the protection and advancement of reproductive and health rights for the women;
- Promote women’s health and safe motherhood;
- Ensure access to quality and comprehensive provision of health care services to women and children.
- Achieve a rapid and substantial reduction in maternal and child mortality rate;
The bill makes a little reference to safe motherhood reducing it to HIV prevention, termination of pregnancy and legalising surrogacy indirectly in the interest of genders other than the male and female. It is also focused on the sexualisation of adolescents by giving them access to contraception. While irresponsible sexuality is a thorn in Kenya’s flesh, providing adolescents with access to contraception does not address the root problem. It is not effective in preventing sexually transmitted diseases. It only encourages risky sexual behaviour. Early use of contraception may result in infertility besides other side-effects associated with contraceptive use. A comprehensive reproductive health care bill will be committed to the care of the reproductive health system in order to ensure that it functions normally. It will not be overly focused on the suppression of the functioning of the reproductive system. A good reproductive health care bill will therefore:
- Provide affordable access to treatment of cancers of the reproductive system and organs
- Provide ethical infertility treatment to those affected
- Provide for access to safe and ethical ante-natal and post-natal care
- Provide for a sex education curriculum that encourages adolescents not to objectify themselves and others but to respect themselves as well as others
Clause 16 on safe motherhood does not spell out the steps to be taken to encourage safe motherhood but instead stipulates who is to give maternal care. A comprehensive and ethical way of dealing with maternal mortality is as detailed in an article I wrote last year (An Ethical Response to Reducing Maternal Mortality in Kenya).
Work and Family Balance
Post partum care should include providing educational and working facilities that enable women to balance child care and work. Government and private employers should provide child care facilities for their employees as a way of improving child health in Kenya and boosting work productivity. There should be adequate parental leave than is currently stipulated for working parents. Further, employers should institute flexible working schedules and utilise technology to allow employees where possible, to work at home. Women should never have to choose between their education and career because of policies that discriminate them.
While pregnancy for school going children should not occur or be encouraged, it is imperative that when it occurs, female students are not stigmatised. It is stigma that encourages abortion and a negative view of one’s sexuality. Concrete steps should be taken to counsel the child’s parents as well as fellow students so that they can offer moral support. Day care facilities should also be provided if needed.
Treatment of Infertility Surrogacy For being unethical and degrading to the human person, surrogacy should not be included in the reproductive health care bill as a way of dealing with permanent infertility. Where NaProTechnology has failed adoption should be encouraged.
Every person has a right to have their infertility treated without resulting to unorthodox means to reproduce. As such, it is imperative that the government provide adequate training in NaProTechnolgy to gynaecologists and include it in the medical practitioners’ curriculum.
Support for a Positive Reproductive Health Services Rather than resort to the provision of ‘reproductive health and sexual services’ geared to the provision of questionable information and education, we need to focus on the underlying issues which include the lack of proper sex education at formative levels. Adolescents can learn at a tender age not to objectify themselves as well as others. By supporting schools, faith based organisations and parents in the provision of this education then the underlying problem is dealt with. Many pro-life organisations committed to helping the youth are cash strapped, receiving no funding from donors who direct their funding to projects geared at curtailing reproduction and redefining gender in Kenya.
Inclusion of All Stakeholders
As it is, clause 33 (2) infringes on parental rights. Parents have a right to guide their children in the best path they see possible. They school and feed children and take care of them in unfathomable ways. By removing parental consent we leave the Kenyan children vulnerable to policies that are not well-meaning. The family as the natural and fundamental unit of society is protected in article 45 (1) of the Kenyan constitution. Clause 33 (2) also violates article 53 (1e) and 53 (2) of the Kenyan constitution. The constitution of the proposed reproductive and child health care board is devoid of key stakeholders that include faith based organisations, educators as well as pro-life organisations that parents choose to entrust the education of their children to. One size doesn’t fit all and Kenyan children deserve to have their religious and cultural rights protected as enshrined in article 27(4) and article 32 (freedom of conscience, religion, belief and opinion) of the Kenyan constitution.
The Reproductive Health Care Bill deserves an overhaul. The inclusion of all stakeholders will ensure a sober outcome. As such, it does not merit to be debated in its current state. Here is a copy of the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 for your perusal.