Activists intensify advocacy for teenagers’ improved access to contraceptives

On 12 January 2021 at 01:14

Rwanda’s law concerning Human Reproductive Health limits people under 18 years of age from deciding for themselves on using contraceptives.

An under-18 adolescent is considered by the law as a minor and is limited to accessing sexual reproductive health services without parents’ or guardians’ consent.

Rwanda’s 2020 report on human rights shows that 11.6% teenagers were provided with contraceptives while 15,656 unexpected pregnancies among teenagers were recorded last year between January and August.

The Government of Rwanda has been assessing the issue of unexpected pregnancies among teenagers depriving them some of basic rights like education.

As he appeared to the parliamentary chamber of senate in November 2018, Prime Minister Dr. Edouard Ngirente said that the study was underway to seek how teenagers can be allowed to use contraceptives as one of solutions to reduce unexpected pregnancies.

Health Development Initiative (HDI), a non-governmental, non-profit organization based in Kigali that empowers communities to lead healthier lives by providing access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services reveals that the requirement for adolescents to access contraceptives in presence of parents impedes the reduction of unexpected pregnancies.

Dr. Aflodis Kagaba, the Executive Director of HDI says that requiring parents to escort teenagers seeking contraceptives is still a challenge to the youth.

“The fact that under 18 teen is required to go with the parent at health facilities can be destructive because the society rests on differences that some parents might lose trust to children. If laws are revised, and extend awareness among the public that contraceptives doesn’t necessarily concern spouses would reduce such worries,” he said.

Dr Kagaba explains that people thinking contraceptives would trigger increased sexual relations and cause side effects to teens have inadequate information.

“People consider the negative aspects because they don’t have enough information. Health care professionals assist teenagers differently considering their age brackets,” he said.

Dr Kagaba says establishing centers with trained health care professionals assisting adolescents in reproductive health would be a great contribution.

Yvette Nyinawumuntu, the executive director of Save Generation Organization, a local non-government organisation dedicated to promoting and advocating for children and women’s rights has also told IGIHE that the current law poses difficulties to people seeking reproductive health services.

“Escorting teenagers for contraception services is a hindrance. Sometimes, adolescents have secrets that they fear to reveal to parents. The culture of educating children on reproductive health within families is also getting decimated. Primitive mindset is still a barrier for teenagers to access improved reproductive services. The situation will get boost, if a parents understand that helping daughters access such services is among consider primary responsibilities,” she says.

Nyinawumuntu explains that every parent should interact with children and develop the habit of educating them on reproductive health, thus creating the bond of friendship that children will be free to tell the truth.

She underscores that revising the law on human reproductive health and training stakeholders would be a step further to improved reproductive health services.

“We want the law to be revised and organize trainings to all stakeholders. We are advocating because parents need to interact and take care of children so that they grow with full knowledge on reproductive health. Parents will also understand that escorting children for such services is a responsibility,” says Nyinawumuntu.

Some adolescents told IGIHE that contraception is a good service for them but expressed concerns that girls fear to involve parents into private life.

“Providing teenagers with contraception services is a good program. It was implemented to help us but it is very difficult to engage the family for such support. Allowing adolescents to access such services without parents’ permission would be commendable,” says Ishimwe Clémentine aged 16.

In December 2020, the Ministry of Health revealed that discussions were underway to seek together how adolescents between the age of 15 and 18 can be allowed to access contraceptives without consulting parents or guardians.