The Minister of Health, Dr Ruth Jane Aceng has said that religious leaders in the country do not know the aim of the sexuality framework they drafted, saying the clergy is far flung from reality.
“One of the challenges we got with the sexuality framework was that religious leaders did not participate in the drafting of that framework and sometimes they do not believe what we are saying, but when they hear reality they will understand where we are coming from,” Dr Aceng said during the annual reproductive, maternal, newborn and adolescent assembly in Kampala yesterday.
According to the Minister, the religious leaders ought to actively participate in sensitising their congregations about reproductive health to help the youth reach their full potential in life.
“What I am emphasizing is that we need to give information. Including the religious leaders must talk about teenage pregnancies in the churches,” she said.
Early this year, government sought the input of the church in the National Sexuality Education framework. In their response, the Catholic Church and Church of Uganda issued a statement indicating that introducing sexuality education to children as proposed by government is not right.
The clerics also pointed out that under the contested policy, the role of the family is not considered especially in the early years while children in pre-primary will be exposed to content and life skills that are not appropriate for their age.
The National Sexuality Education framework contends that the content is aimed at protecting children because they are exposed to different forms, frequencies and levels of physical, emotional and sexual violence in their homes and at school as early as at a tender age of less than five. It states that children aged between three and five years also engage in exploratory sexual play that may include gender roles and behaviours. At age’s six to nine, there is likelihood of more exposure to sexual gender-based violence, ICT and media, the ministry’s document contends. These reports and rising teenage pregnancy rate currently at 25 per cent have continued to worry government with various agencies proposing different measures for redress.
Dr Aceng yesterday said that the religious leaders input was paramount since they deal with the spiritual growth of their flock and ought to be part.
The Ministry Permanent Secretary, Dr Diana Atwine said that parents should invest time to educating their children especially when it comes to sexuality education and early pregnancy.
“We want families to take charge of their children. Church leaders also should help to talk to children about sexuality education. But it should primarily start at home, you know charity begins at home,” Dr Atwine said.
Child pregnancies increased to 25% as reflected in the 2016 Uganda Demographic Health Survey report. The report states that 24% of female teenagers are either pregnant or have given birth.
Mortality rate in Uganda stands at 320 per 100,000 from 438 in 2011.