CIVIL Society Organizations (CSOs) are advocating for the amendment of a section of the Public Health Act to remove restrictions for adolescents to access Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) without parental consent.
By Patricia Mashiri
The existing law allows adolescents to access to SRH services however with limitations regarding access to contraception, sex education and termination of pregnancy which according to CSOs, has led to an increase in spread of HIV/AIDS among adolescents, unplanned pregnancies and illegal termination which in most cases took the young girls lives because most of them will be done under unsafe circumstances.
Speaking during a Media Café, Diana Malailosi, COMPASS Coordinator Advocacy Core Team said there was need for amendment of the Public Health Act that there should be no restrictions in terms of getting SRH.
There is a need for amendment of the Public Health Act so that all adolescents from the age of twelve get full access to SRHS without the parental consent. At least 41% of the youths do not have access to RHS and those with the information do not have fully researched information. Health care services should be provided in a way that is accessible, available, affordable, appropriate and safe.
“The adolescents need full education on how, where and when to get information of how to abstain, if already engaged in sexual activities how to do it safely, where and when to get tested and where to get contraceptives. They need to have options and helped to choose wisely from them. Therefore, the requirement of consent to access SRH by the persons aged 12 years and above should be removed and the person with the ages 12 and below should be given priority without any hindrances.
“There is also need for provision in the Children’s Bill and Public Health Care Act that all adolescents should receive their SRH without consent and an appropriate legislation that protects health care providers from an legal liability for providing services,” Malailosi said.
Munyaradzi Chimwara, a representative from Advocacy Core team emphasised the need to accept that most adolescents are engaging in sexual activities therefore everyone should be prepared to package well the SRH messages and unpack it to adolescents according to age groups.
“Let us not be in denial of what’s happening around us. Let us address the issue of consent so that we will avoid the issues around unwanted pregnancies and early marriages. Some issues can be avoided by just opening up and educating the adolescents
“We need to demystify some of the cultural and religious practices so that our adolescents see the SRH from difference lenses. The religious and cultural practices hinder or limit the access to the uptake of SRH services. This helps them in making informed decisions,” Chimwara said.
A report by UNICEF shows that more than 70 000 illegal abortions are carried out in Zimbabwe every year and with 200 times greater risk of young girls between the ages of 15-19 dying of the abortions complications. Therefore there should be safe spaces for adolescents to freely express themselves and access themselves without any hinderances.