By Matabeleland North Correspondent
Hwange: A fierce debate has emerged on whether adolescent boys and girls below 16 should be afforded condoms and family planning pills as part of their rights to safe reproductive health.
Civil society groups and youths mostly are pushing for giving of condoms to adolescents while a cross section of the society feels this was an indirect way of encouraging immorality and child prostitution.
A Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health is conducting public hearings and met Hwange residents Monday afternoon to gather citizens’ views on whether adolescents should be allowed access to sexual reproductive health services like condoms, family planning pills as well as HIV and Aids testing and counselling.
Parliament decided to gather people’s views after it was petitioned by Advocacy Core Team (ACT), representing Access Taskforce which has 10 local organisations and supported by 14 other non-governmental organisations.
The petitioners want adolescents aged between 12 and 16 to be allowed to access safe reproductive health and contraceptives at hospitals without being judged.
Said Ncube of Young People’s Network: “Families should not deprive adolescents of their rights. We should be allowed access to reduce prevalence of teenage pregnancies and STIs. We understand when parents show concern about culture, but we are here because of the statistics that teenage pregnancies and mortality are high.
“The solution is removal of restrictions on access to SRH services. Youths are sexually active, and we cannot ignore that.”
Christen Shoko from Buwalo Matalikilo Trust said by allowing minors to have access to SRH, this will reduce maternal mortality.
“We want access to services. Some children stay with stepparents and are not free to ask for anything to do with contraception. If they can be allowed access to hospitals without a guardian then that will boost their confidence.
“There should also be a law protecting health providers so they can help adolescents abort. Lack of access to SRH services lead to girls and young women resorting to traditional remedies including consulting inyangas and self-proclaimed prophets which perpetrates death,” she said.
Another youth, Daniel Nyathi also from Young People’s Network said there should be no age restriction on young boys and girls seeking contraceptives.
“The current set-up is causing teenage pregnancies. Some adolescents fail to access some sexual reproductive health services because of health staff attitude,” he said.
However, some sections of the society believe the country was taking a wrong turn by advocating access to contraception by the young.
They said it has never happened that minors were given condoms and family planning pills while others said this will breed immorality, fuel more child sexual abuse and crime.
“We are adopting other countries’ cultures yet we have our own. We should return to our old value system. This is a worrying issue and children need to be taught to abstain.
“We have never seen 12-year-olds taking contraceptives, this is Satanism. It will promote child prostitution and child trafficking. It is not acceptable in our society and we are strongly against it,” said founder of Goodhope Children’s Home Rugare Mpofu.