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National teenage pregnancy rate worrisome

by Staff reporter
18 Nov 2020 at 05:21hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE records 70 000 illegal or unsafe abortions per year and one in every five girls drops out of school due to unwanted pregnancies. Statistics also indicate that the national teenage pregnancy rate is at 22 percent.

One in three girls gets married before the age of 18.

Against this background, 24 local groups petitioned the Parliament of Zimbabwe to amend the Public Health Act to allow girls aged 12 years and above access to contraceptives with or without their parents or guardins' consent.

The groups also want the children to have access to reproductive health care services at clinics and hospitals.

Recently, the HIV and Aids thematic committee and other committees held a public meeting at Mkoba Hall in Mkoba Village Two suburb in Gweru to get the views of members of the public on the issue of allowing children aged 12 years and above access to contraceptives.

Addressing the meeting Mr Morgan Femayi chairperson of the HIV and Aids thematic committee in the Senate, said there are worrisome health indicators like statistics showing that the national teenage pregnancy rate is now at 22 percent.

"One in every three girls marry before the age of 18. We have 70 000 illegal abortions per year in the country and high school drop out. Girls below the age of 19 account for 15 percent of the maternal mortality rate.

"Therefore, the petitioner's plea to Parliament is that there should be no restrictions in accessing health care by persons from the age of 12 or those below the age of 18 and that include access to contraceptives and other health care matters," he said.

Mr Munyaradzi Chingwara, a counsellor, said whether or not parents or guardians like it, children from the age of 12 were indulging in sex.

"Our children must have access to contraceptives, to health care services because they are doing it and they must be assisted. In 2016 we heard that 4 500 girls failed to proceed to secondary education after falling pregnant.

"So let's remove age restrictions to accessing health care services. Reproductive health shouldn't have restrictions so that there is universal access to health care services for all including our children," he said.

Miss Orga Nkala, a youth coach, said it was unfortunate that Zimbabwean culture had been eroded by globalisation. She said as a 22-year-old person with a 12year old younger sister, she was finding it rather difficult to accept the idea that she be allowed access to contraceptives.

"The main problem is that we have allowed our culture to be eroded by the Western culture. Now children are walking undressed and we say it's their right. Children are allowed to kiss each other in schools and on the roads and parents turn a blind eye, we watch and applaud them and we say it's their right. Corporal punishment was removed, and we have these rights we give them. As parents or guardians we need rights too to protect them hence I'm against the idea of giving contraceptives to children wihout our consent," she said.

Miss Nkala said local authorities like Gweru City Council should invest in recreational facilities so that children have other things to do.

"We need safe spaces, playgrounds, everywhere where there was a playground there is now a tuck shop. So they only watch movies and think sex is the only source of entertainment," she said.

Mr Edgar Benjamin, a social commentator, writer and politician said the other alternative is for society to return to the basics of life. He said morals and values should be at the centre of everything so that parents and society at large can actively work together and raise children who will respect their bodies and shun sex before marriage.

"As adults we have surrendered adulthood to 11-, 12-year-olds. We are now making it a new normal.We meet and talk and give them a go-ahead to be promiscuous. We have given up. What have we done to stop the spread of HIV, STI and teenage delinquency? We ought to return to basics and control our children," said Mr Benjamin.

Mrs Vimbai Muposana from an organisation called Voice of the mother Zimbabwe said they have more than 7 000 petitioners against the idea of allowing children access to reproductive health care services and contraceptives without parents or guardians' consent.

"We say no to this. We can't allow children to access reproductive health care without parental consent.

We can't legalise them to access contraceptives. If below 18, the law says you are a minor, if under 16 you can't consent to marriage , you can't get a driver's licence. So why then give these minors access to reproductive health care when we say they are young?" she asked.

Mrs Muposana said people shouldn't allow their culture to be eroded.

"This is a cultural agenda by Western countries who are imposing their culture on us. We have some organisations that are funded by the West. There is also no study on the effects of contraceptives on children in Zimbabwe and we can't allow this. Let's rehabilitate the children, let's have awareness campaigns, adopt orphans, remove them from the streets and have programmes to educate the most vulnerable people like orphans who are at risk of engaging in sex and falling pregnant," she said.

Mr William Gondo, director of Booms Colleges said people must start to reconsider cultural values as Zimbabweans.

"Yes, they must have access to contraceptives but are we not allowing children who had been behaving well to start misbehaving because they know they have access to contraceptives.

"I'm with kids all the time and whenever there seems to be a law which gives them rights, many stray. We are talking of kids here whose hormones are changing. Why then should we give them contraceptives? Let's mould them together as a society so that they value their bodies and shun sex before they have certificates, diplomas or degrees," he said.

Miss Nomsa Moyo said practically children are engaging in sex.

"This is what we have and we need access to health care. We need access to contraceptives. What is happening is that we have feelings we can't control because of age. However, we must have access to comprehensive health care and counselling. We need to be in school and need contraceptives. The law says if a girl falls pregnant, she can continue going to school and it means she has to access reproductive health care and so age should not be a limit to us," she said.

Another teen, Miss Wadzanai Kumwasha said as a young person she knows how difficult it is for children of her age to discuss reproductive health with their parents. She said a law must be passed so that they access health care even without consent from the parents.

"Children are not being children anymore. It's rare for a child to talk about sex and reproductive health with his or her parents. We can't freely talk and therefore, we need to access health care services at clinics and hospitals. There are also those that are raped and orphans, they need access to reproductive health care services," she said.

Source - chronicle