December | 2017 |

Monthly Archives: December 2017

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LEGALIZE SAFE ABORTION IN KENYA

Category : Naya Blog

According to the African Population and Health Research Centre, Unsafe abortion remains one of the five leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality in Kenya with close to half a million women undergoing unsafe abortions yearly (464,690). More than half of all abortions are performed unsafely, with herbs, coat hangers, spoons, knitting needles and harmful pharmaceuticals.

With the population increase, the study also indicates that 40-45% of the pregnancies in Kenya are unplanned

The study further shows that of the country’s eight regions, Nyanza recorded the second highest number of abortion cases at 36,842 with rift valley leading at 38,687.

Majority of the women who procure unsafe abortion are young and poor and end up with serious health complications or dead.

Lack of information and comprehensive sexuality education, failure to access quality and affordable contraceptives of their choice, punitive abortion laws and lack of safe abortion services are some of the factors that push women to seek unsafe abortion services.

The deaths and injuries caused by unsafe abortion can be prevented and must be prevented. It is time for the Ministry of Health to take decisive action to protect the health, lives, families, and future of Kenyan women before more women are needlessly harmed by unsafe abortion and its punitive abortion laws and policies.

Kenya did sign and ratify Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa that among other things provides and expands grounds for safe abortion. Article 2 of the Kenyan constitution states that the general rules of international law shall form part of the law of Kenya. I call upon the government of Kenya to lift its reservations on international laws that champion for protection of women’s reproductive health and rights by authorizing safe abortion.

There is also need for the government to offer age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education to all children in and out of school. Comprehensive sexuality education that would significantly contribute to prevention of unintended and unplanned pregnancies is lacking in schools and homes, thus exposing vulnerable girls and women to unwanted pregnancies and complications arising from unsafe abortion. Parents and guardians need to be at the forefront to complement the work of teachers and other organizations on sexuality education.

Punitive abortion laws also needs to be reviewed and amended. When abortion is illegal, the risks increase for women. Research around the world shows that when governments restrict abortion, women still have abortions. They just have more dangerous ones. According to a UN report, the average unsafe abortion rate was more than four times greater in countries with restrictive abortion policies than in countries with liberal abortion policies.

Contraceptive services that are acceptable, appropriate and user-friendly should also be available at all time and accessible to women and girls regardless of their status in the society.

The media and other stakeholders should develop and come up with effective awareness programs on contraceptives, comprehensive sexuality education, and safe abortion, among others.

Lastly both county and the national governments should increase budgetary allocation for contraceptives, post abortion care, safe abortion, comprehensive sexuality education and for continuous training of health workers and their provision of services.

Denying a woman access to the critical health care she needs can lead to devastating consequences in her life, her family, her community, and Kenyan society as a whole.

Safe abortion is a woman right. A woman has a right to decide whether to keep or terminate a pregnancy and denying her this right one would be violating her human right. It’s time for Kenya to fully respect women’s rights. Pregnant women and girls need to be able to make decisions about abortion, without the threat of criminal penalties.

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)


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LET’S UNITE TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN KENYA

Category : Naya Blog

Gender Based Violence, including domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking and harmful practices such as child marriage, Female Genital Mutilation(FGM) is still endemic in Kenya, despite the existence of legislation, administrative directives, judicial sanctions and awareness raising efforts by a variety of agencies and government.

According to the Kenya Demographic health survey 2014, 4 out of 10 Kenyan women undergo some form of violence, whether physical or sexual. This figure is staggering and should compel us to pause, reflect and do something before it gets out of hand.

It is time for every man to start doing something to end the scourge of violence against women and girls in their homes and communities. Although laws exist to deal with gender violence and guarantee gender equality, every man must take personal responsibility to root out the vice of gender discrimination in his home. Only then can a society begin to take a stand together to bring to an end injustice committed against women and girls, denying them basic human rights such as a life in dignity, choice and freedom.

Cultural, social and economic barriers that hinder empowerment of girls and women must be addressed and we have to raise our voices to end the scourge of violence against women and girls.

Women are half of Kenya’s demographic dividend, if they are given the right tools and community support, they can not only become financially independent, but be the engines that fuel Kenya’s future growth.

All women and girls should be able to lead a life free from fear and violence in Kenya.  We must once and for all say no to this clear violation of women’s fundamental rights.

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)


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LGBT RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

Category : Naya Blog

LGBT rights in Kenya are limited in comparison to other jurisdictions in the world. Under section 162, 163, 165 of the penal code, any sexual practices between males (termed “gross indecency”) are a felony and are punishable by 5 to 14 years imprisonment. In Kenya the state doesn’t recognize any relationships between persons of the same sex. Same sex marriage is banned under article 45 of the Kenyan constitution.

These punitive Anti LGBT laws have led to stigmatization, discrimination, harassment and violence against the LGBT communities.

Because majority of Kenyans would have rejected the new constitution in the 2010 referendum to adopt it, experts who drafted the 2010 constitution of Kenya put it in a way that it doesn’t expressly protect the rights of the LGBT person.

However Statutes discriminating against the LGBT persons are unconstitutional and void because of the constitution’s broad protection of civil and human rights.

The bill of rights (article 19-59) is an integral part of Kenya’s democratic state and is the framework for social, economic and cultural practices. The purpose of recognizing and protecting human rights and fundamental freedom is to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities and to promote social justice and the realization of the potential of all human beings.

The bill of rights under article 27 of the Kenyan constitution provides “every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection before the law.” The article doesn’t exclude homosexuals from the ambit of constitutional protection.  Further article 27(4) prohibits discrimination on the grounds of “SEX” The prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sex has been understood to include sexual orientation. The constitution eliminates all wiggle room by prohibiting both direct and indirect discrimination.

Kenya must take concrete steps to provide for the protection and equal treatment of the LGBT persons, decriminalize same sex activity between consenting adults, repeal all legislative provisions which criminalize sexual activity between consenting adults, decriminalize homosexuality by abrogating the legal provisions currently punishing sexual relations between consenting individuals of the same sex and finally subscribe to the December 2008 General Assembly Declaration on Sexual Orientation and human rights(France).

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)


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Universal access to SRHR is the bedrock of gender equality and economic development

Category : Naya Blog

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are inextricably linked to larger development goals like reducing poverty, achieving better health and ensuring equal rights for women and girls. Access to SRHR, including family planning, is essential to reduce poverty, increase education and professional opportunities and attainment for girls and women in all settings. When women are able to voluntarily decide about the timing and spacing of their pregnancies, their children are healthier and better educated, leading to better outcomes across whole families and entire communities.

Access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is the bedrock of gender equality, economic development and progress for all. When sexual and reproductive health and rights are violated, women, children and adolescents—particularly girls—are unable to achieve their full potential. Resulting unintended pregnancies—and associated infections—too often end in pre-mature death or debilitation due to complications or unsafe abortions. When they don’t, new mothers are often unable to pursue an education or a career, limiting economic participation in their community. Lack of comprehensive SRHR services perpetuates a vicious cycle that further marginalizes women and girls.

Universal access to contraceptive information, services and quality, affordable supplies is a basic human right. Greater investments are needed in human rights-based programming to ensure gender-inclusive and age-specific services that enable women and girls to obtain their full range of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)


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Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health is Essential For Kenya’s Development

Category : Naya Blog

Universal access to sexual and reproductive health services means that enough services and information are available, accessible and acceptable to meet the different needs of all individuals. This requires that people can safely reach services without travelling for a long time or distance, and that those with disabilities can easily access buildings. Services and treatments must be affordable, and based on principles of equity such that poor people do not bear a higher burden from the cost than more wealthy people. Care should also be sensitive to social and cultural considerations including gender, language and religion.

Universal access to SRH requires that services are of adequate quality (availability of skilled medical personnel, approved and unexpired drugs and equipment, proper infrastructure including safe water and sanitation); and that providers do not discriminate on the basis of sexuality, gender, ethnicity and age.

In Kenya, perceived poor quality of services, inappropriate treatment and discrimination by health professionals deters many people from using and accessing sexual and reproductive health services.

Lack of access to SRH services and information contributes to high levels of morbidity and mortality for largely preventable SRH problems in Kenya. Every year, thousands of women die during childbirth because there is not a skilled attendant present at the birth, and insufficient provision of condoms has contributed to the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Restrictions on information about sexuality, contraception, prevention and healthcare, limit people’s ability to make choices regarding their own sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Ensuring universal access to SRH services and information is essential for achieving many, if not all, of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those on maternal health, child survival, HIV and AIDS and gender equality. Most maternal deaths can be prevented if there is skilled attendance at birth to cope with potentially fatal complications. Access to safe and effective family planning services and contraception empowers women to have more control over when to have children and lessens the incidence of unsafe abortions. Also, contraception can help reduce the transmission of STIs, including HIV. At a macro level, lower levels of maternal mortality and slower population growth increase social and economic development and reduce poverty.

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)


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Ramp up investment and support for sexual and reproductive health of women

Category : Naya Blog

Enabling Kenyan women to plan their pregnancies and ensuring healthy births would reap tremendous returns. If all 2.5 million women with an unmet need for modern contraception (KDHS 2014) were to practice contraception, unintended pregnancies would drop by 70% and unsafe abortions would decline by 74% leading to large and immediate health gains.

Fully meeting the unmet need for maternal and newborn health services would also lead to sizable declines in poor health outcomes in the country. But because preventing unintended pregnancy is in itself a key component of improving maternal and newborn health outcomes, fully meeting the need for contraceptive care and maternal and newborn health care services simultaneously could achieve more dramatic improvements than investing in either one separately.

In particular, fully meeting the need for these services, including HIV related care for pregnant women and their newborns would mean:

  • maternal deaths would drop by two-thirds;
  • newborn deaths would drop by three-fourths;
  • the burden of disability related to pregnancy and delivery experienced by women and newborns would drop by three-fourths; and
  • mother-to-newborn HIV transmission would be nearly eliminated.

Beyond all of these direct and striking health gains, there is a bounty of other social and economic returns Kenya could yield by meeting women’s sexual and reproductive health needs. These benefits are felt from the micro to the macro level, by women, their families and their communities.

When their needs are met, women and children are more likely to be able to stay in school and gain an education, which in turn will have a positive impact on their future labor force participation and earnings. Women experience an increase in social status, self-esteem and gender equity. Families face fewer orphaned children, and households can boost their savings and assets. Societies undergo improved living conditions, reduced poverty and fewer strains on environmental resources. All of these rippling benefits directly affect other global development goals.

Fundamentally, women everywhere want and acutely need sexual and reproductive health services to lead healthy sexual lives, have the number of children they want when they want them, deliver their babies safely and ensure that their newborns thrive. Policymakers and other stakeholders at national and county governments have a responsibility to ramp up investment and support for sexual and reproductive health and rights, because all have a stake in the cascade of benefits that accrue to women, children, families, communities and the Country.

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)


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Ministry of Health should adopt standards and guidelines to combat unsafe abortion

Category : Naya Blog

With abortion-related causes accounting for an estimated 25 percent of maternal mortality in Kenya, the Ministry of Health should adopt, approve and implement the national standards and guidelines aimed at reducing deaths and injuries caused by unsafe abortion.

Once these guidelines are approved, they must be implemented in all health facilities across the country. These guidelines must be designed to improve the health system’s capacity to deliver safe abortion care and to increase community awareness about the dangers of unsafe abortion. They should systematically address unsafe abortion by improving services related to reducing unwanted pregnancies and expanding access to safe, legal abortion care, including post abortion family planning services.

To show a common commitment in reducing grossly high maternal death rates from unsafe abortion in this country, the ministry of health must provide quality reproductive health care services, including the provision of safe abortion services which are fundamental human rights.

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)


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Invest more on youth friendly services to win the fight against HIV and AIDS

Category : Naya Blog

 

Despite major progress made in the fight against HIV, HIV and AIDS still remains among the most significant public health challenges for Kenya. The possibility of an HIV-free Kenya by 2030 could be slowed down by the fact that not all people living with HIV have accessed care and treatment services.

 

In Kenya, an estimated 1.6 million people, or roughly four per cent of the population are living with HIV. Every year an average of 89,000 adults and about 11,000 children in Kenya are infected with HIV. Over 680,000 persons living with HIV, including 60,000 children aged 0-14 have received antiretroviral treatment.

 

Kenyan youth, especially young women, are the most at risk age group for new HIV infections according to data published by the National AIDS Control Council. Young people between the age of 15-24 account for 52% of all new HIV infections in Kenya.

 

Lack of access to youth friendly sexual and reproductive health information and services responsive to their special needs has contributed to these high numbers. According to the Ministry of Health’s own assessment through the Kenya Service Provision Assessment Survey of 2010, only 7% of public health facilities have the ability to offer youth friendly services.

 

This lack of access to youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services means that young people do not have adequate physical facilities where they can go to seek services. It also means that they don’t have access to enough healthcare workers trained and experienced in handling their unique needs.

 

As a result of these deficiencies, the youth, more often than not, cannot access information about their sexual and reproductive health. More crucially, it also means that there are barriers to access of HIV prevention options like condoms and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (or PrEP) or treatment options like Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) among others.

 

To win the fight against HIV and AIDS, Kenya must start by consistently investing resources for youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services. Also National and county governments have to consistently invest in social and behavior change communication programmes to influence young people to make informed decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health.

 

One tangible and achievable commitment that we can make as a nation is to provide Kenya’s youth with youth friendly sexual and reproductive health information and services. This commitment will no doubt go a long way in helping them beat the threat of HIV and AIDS.

 

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)