By Kerry Mwita
About 75 years ago, the world realized what would be the greatest gain in the fight for equality and justice, with the inception of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And while all human rights are indivisible, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights have outstood to be a vital discussion both globally and nationally, often eliciting controversy from sections of religious groups.
The Kenyan government has made tremendous efforts towards the promotion of SRHR including ensuring budget allocation towards promoting SRHR services , improving access to SRHR information and services, creating a policy enabling environment for realization of SRHR through the Nationala reproductive health policy 2022-2023 and most recently introduction of Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) in the JSS curriculum, just to mention but a few.
There’s no doubt the church has historically been the embodiment of the voice of reason in the most crucial times. It has proven to be instrumental in guiding the social conscience of a society. It’s however important for the church to embrace a pragmatic approach in deliberating on implementation of government policies, specifically towards the realization of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
In most religious and societal set ups discussions on sexuality are considered a taboo and young persons are expected to abstain from premarital sex. However, these expectations have proven to contravene the situation at hand. Little education on sexuality and safe sex practices among teens and youth has immensely contributed to increased teen pregnancies and consequently, unsafe abortions. More alarmingly in 2021, the National AIDS Control Council affirmed that more than 53% of persons living with HIV/AIDS are unaware of their status, posing a potential risk of increased infections.
In the recent past, civil society organizations have been actively involved in sensitization on menstrual hygiene management in schools, thus contributing to reduced stigma and equipping learners with information. Equally, entrenching CSE in school curriculum will play a great role in reducing the number of HIV infections as well as teen pregnancies. In the implementation of teen and youth friendly policies, and especially on the introduction of Comprehensive Sex Education, in the JSS curriculum, it’s absolutely necessary for the government to involve all the relevant stakeholders including religious groups in deliberating the best implementation methods.
On the other hand it’s equally important for the church and all religious groups to understand their roles in unraveling the misconceptions around sexuality stereotypes.The church should embrace Value Clarification and Attitude Transformation towards equipping the society with information such as emphasizing on the need to know one’s HIV/AIDS status and debunking the myths around it.The best skepticism can do to our country is to rise the number of HIV/AIDS and STDs infections, increased teen pregnancies and consequently unsafe abortions.I implore both the government and religious groups in the words of William Shakespeare: “To be or not to be? That is the question.”
Mr. Mwita is a youth advocate at the NAYA Kenya