Access to reproductive health care for 12-year olds: Citizens speak out

Bulawayo residents have expressed mixed feelings over a petition by the Advocacy Core Team (ACT) Compass Project which seeks to advocate for children aged 12 years and above to access reproductive health services. Some residents argued that such a provision would diminish the values of Ubuntu at the same time exposing young children to sexual abuse, whereas some rallied for the petition stating that it was within their constitutional rights to access any form of medical assistance.

Speaking during a public hearing held at Pumula South Hall on Thursday last week, Lusi Mafa rallied against the provisions of the petition stating that some contraceptives are likely to cause lifelong chronic ailments.

“Some of these contraceptives have caused health problems for us. We now experience so many health-related side effects because of the use of contraceptives pills. This idea is a bad one because we are going to have a generation that will experience extreme health complications if we fail to address this issue now,” said Mafa.

Pastor Herbert Nyakondo said lack of recreational facilities and social services is a driving factor to early sexual activity. Nyakondo said the government should provide facilities that will keep them occupied instead of promoting sexual activities at a young age.

“Lack of recreational facilities for youths has posed a problem in the development of our children as they now engage in early sexual activities. By providing access to sexual health services we are exposing our children to sexual abuse.

“The government should provide our children with recreational facilities to promote normal childhood development. Children at 12 years old are not able to think for themselves. Giving them access to contraceptives will only destroy their future,” he said.

Representing the Zimbabwe Disabled, HIV, and AIDS organization, Irene Moyo said the petition did not consider the disabled community, citing that their thinking capacities were low.

“This petition failed to consider the effects this will have on persons with disability. As such, as an organization we are saying no to the petition,” she said.

A resident who identified herself as Mrs. Matiza said: “It is without a doubt that most children at this age are already engaging in sexual activities. This is why we think that it is very wise for us to allow them to access sexual health services in order to prevent them from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.”

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health and Thematic Committee on HIV and Aids Senator David Pagwasese Pararenyatwa said the turn out from Bulawayo residents was commendable and called for better communication from the government in order to realize more participation from the public and promote the involvement of citizens in decision-making processes.

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