Legislators reject birth control for young girls

The State Minister for Primary Health Care, Ms Margaret Muhanga, speaks during a plenary session at Parliament on October 4, 2023. Yesterday, she defended the health ministry’s view on planned birth control for young girls. PHOTO | DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Lawmakers warn that the planned government policy would only formalise defilement and have severe health implications for young girls. 

Members of Parliament led by the Deputy Speaker, Mr Thomas Tayebwa, yesterday condemned a new plan mooted by Health ministry officials to roll out the use of birth control methods among girls aged 15 and above.

The legislators termed the move “devilish” and maintained that the initiative would stain the minds of children who are the future of the nation.

In a response to Amuru MP Lucy Akello, the Deputy Speaker backed by lawmakers across the political spectrum said the planned government policy would only formalise defilement and have severe health implications for young girls. 

“The devil should not find a way and such thoughts should not never come to the minds of our people because it is giving up. That is formalising defilement,” Mr Tayebwa said following a submission from Mr Akello who had raised the matter as an issue of national importance during the plenary. 

While referring to Daily Monitor’s Tuesday front-page story titled, “Girls to get birth control from age 15 in the new plan,’’ Ms Akello said it was “a very glaring and scary headline” and straightaway questioned the motive of the planned policy.

“This means that we are reversing the age downwards from 18 years. We are not scared of the effects the contraceptives will have on these young girls? We are no longer scared of the HIV infection? My [question] is where is that plan coming from?” Ms Akello asked.

“Have you done a study to find out the implications of contraceptives among young girls who have not given birth? Even me who has given birth, I fear those things. How about young girls? Yes, I fear [the contraceptives] and I don’t use them. I use the natural method; the one God gave me. Can you assure us that our children are safe with this policy?” she added.

Dr Charles Olaro, the director for curative services at the Health Ministry, was quoted in this publication’s story yesterday saying the policy targets the out-of-school teenagers and young adults. 

In response to the concern from the lawmakers, the State Minister for Primary Healthcare, Ms Margaret Muhanga, informed the House that she had called Mr Olaro over the matter who clarified that it was not yet an approved policy. 

“I called the director of curative services in the Ministry of Health and then we discussed it. He said he was [rather] suggesting [the idea],” Ms Muhanga said. 

The suggestion by Mr Olaro, she said was a way of weighing options in light with what is happening today with many young girls. 

“We have so many teenage pregnancies, everybody who sleeps with these girls knows that they are young and they are being defiled. They are being married off to 65-year-old men in our societies. So, he [Dr Olaro] was asking [us] the audience [what we think]. He is a medical doctor and he actually weighed the options. [Should, the children get pregnant and die while giving birth or [we] let them [use] family planning methods if we cannot avoid it because it is in the society,” she said.

Mr Tayebwa, however, insisted that such a repugnant policy should never see the light of day.

“That is clearly saying we have failed. I really pray, Honorable minister that we would rather strengthen and ensure that we continue monitoring to fight this vice than legitimising it and giving such services. I am glad it is not yet a policy,” he said.  

The government and the United Nations Population Fund estimated that up to 32,000 teenagers eloped every month during the Covid-19 pandemic. The height of the pandemic was in the respective years of 2020 and 2021 when learners spent most of their time home.