MPs push for adolescents’ access to sexual health service

Legislators have proposed that the Medical Services Amendment Bill makes a provision for adolescents to access sexual reproductive health care services independent of their parents. 

The lawmakers bemoaned that a significant number of young people succumb to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) because they fear approaching their parents and asking them to accompany them to health facilities for medical attention.

Dr Ruth Labode said, taking into consideration the number of adolescent girls who have fallen prey to early pregnancy, the Bill should include a clause that allows them to access contraceptives. 

The Medical Services Amendment Bill seeks to align the provisions of the principal Act to the Constitution of Zimbabwe and to provide a legal framework toward the attainment of universal health coverage by ensuring that every person has access to quality, affordable, available and accessible health services.  

“The issue of access to health services for adolescence has become like a broken record in which the Ministry of Health seems to be helpless. They cannot help it. We know that our teenagers are indulging in drugs and drugs lead to you losing your capacity to control your body. This is where you hear vuzu parties, multiple partner sex. I am saying we hear of vuzu parties where young people of ages  13 to 14 are having multiple client sex, being infected and getting pregnant,” Dr Labode said.

“It is almost like we live in two worlds.  The Ministry of Health and Child Care lives in some heaven of some kind and we live with these things every day.  We read them, they are in the press and yet we fail to do one thing, that is to handle Section 35 of the Public Health Act which restricts the child, a 15-year old, from going to get health services – yet we know because of the life they are leading, they end up with STIs and you expect a parent to take a child to the hospital and say my child has been infected with an STI, please attend to him.”

Dr Labode said while they conducted public hearings on the Bill, the children demanded that they want to go and seek health services at hospitals by themselves because when they indulge in sexual activities, they do not ask for permission from their parents.  

“They also want to receive free treatment because they do not have money because they do not go to work but are still school children and they now know that they have a problem,” she said.

“It is really sad. If you look at the numbers, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education said 10 000 pupils did not come back because of teenage pregnancies.  What are we waiting for?  What exactly do you want?  You want them to come and demonstrate at Kaguvi Building so that you see that the children are getting pregnant?”

MP from Matabeleland North under the Proportional Representation, Lwazi Sibanda, also weighed in noting that young girls should independently access sexual health care services to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

“There is no one who can say children should abort or that children should bear their own children. A child should go to the hospital on her/his own to get help, be it she wants tablets to prevent pregnancy.  Madam Speaker Ma’am, what more the street kids, do you not see that these children now are getting pregnant because the Minister is saying children should not go on their own to the hospital?” she said. 

“If we say children should not go to hospital on their own – how many children, what are we saying?  Some of them are now going for backyard abortion and dying and some of them, their wombs are getting damaged.”

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