Health experts give mixed views on regional sexuality Bill

Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta, Felix Tshisekedi, Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame and EAC Secretary-General Peter Mathuki at the unveiling of the new EAC map after DR Congo signed the Treaty of Accession to the EAC in 2022. PHOTO | PSCU

What you need to know:

  • Once passed into law, there will be harmonization of the national health policies and regulation to achieve quality health services within the region.

Health experts have expressed mixed reactions on the East African Community Sexual and Reproductive Health Bill, 2021.

The experts, who spoke during a Town Hall virtual meeting last Friday in Kampala, were both “in favour” and “against” having the long-awaited Bill passed into law.

Dr Ngare Wahome, an obstetrician gynecologist and the chairperson of the Kenyan Catholic Doctors Association, said by permitting abortion in limited circumstances, the Bill protects trained health officials who act in good faith but unintentionally end up killing the unborn child in the course of terminating a pregnancy or offering treatment to a pregnant mother.

According to the Bill, a woman may terminate a pregnancy if in the opinion of a health professional there is need for emergency treatment, the pregnancy endangers the mental or physical health or life of the woman, in the case of sexual assault, rape, and incest or as may be permitted by the law of a Partner State.

Once passed into law, the Bill demands that every person is entitled and shall receive post-abortion care and treatment as a health and life-saving medical intervention, notwithstanding the legality of the abortion or attempted abortion.

“...In Kenyan law and medical practice, both safe abortion and unsafe abortion are forms of induced miscarriage making both immoral, medically unethical and illegal,” Dr Wahome said.

Norms of society

Mr Stephen Langa, the executive director of Family Life Network- Uganda, said the Bill seeks to change the sexual and gender norms of society with information leading to high risk sexual behaviours to children.

“It (Bill) promotes abortion rights, promiscuity and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights education. It is completely devoid of any positive values or morals, and fails to teach them about the emotional, psychological, social, economic and physical health risks that come with promiscuous, risky and illegitimate sexual activities,” Mr Langa said.

However, Ms Justine Bagonza, an educationist from Uganda, said the  Bill seeks to equip young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that are meant to empower them to live a healthy reproductive life.

“The future of every nation is in its youth, education is good for our young people but should not be designed or dictated to us by the proponents of the new world-order or their cohorts. So, it is important to go back to the drawing board that parents take on the lead to have the impartation of the key family values, skills that are best instead of leaving the void that will be occupied by those that don’t wish us well and have hidden agendas.” Ms Bagonza said.

The other panelists included; Mr Pearl Kupe, an activist and an international business consultant, Mr Jonathan Opio, the executive director of human life international Uganda, Ms Lucy Akello, Woman MP Amuru, Ms Anne Tendo, an advocate, Mr Richard Kakeeto, an Africa policy advisor for Family Watch International and Ms Eva Mugisha, a pharmacist and a director in Medics for Faith Association.

The Bill, which is anchored on Article 118 of the Treaty, is aimed at safeguarding children, empower women, and protect the rights of persons with disability in the East African Community member states.

Once passed into law, there will be harmonization of the national health policies and regulation to achieve quality health services within the region.

Some of the health issues to be dealt with by this law include; ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies.