‘Young people must access reproductive health services’
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
CIVIL society groups are pushing Parliament to amend laws to enable young people to access reproductive health services.
Appearing before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Health this week, Diana Mailosi — who was speaking on behalf of civil society groups — said there was an urgent need to deal with the problem of young people who were failing to access health services.
“The intent of laws and policies on age of consent is to protect children and adolescents.
“However, requiring parental consent to access reproductive healthcare services such as HIV testing and counselling has been cited as a major barrier in acquiring such services.
“During uptake/demand by adolescents, the capacity of the healthcare providers to make critical decisions is restricted in fear of legal action.
“It has also been documented that adolescents opt not to seek care because they want to avoid telling their parents about their health problems and sexual activities.”
She said there was a need to amend the Public Health Act.
“An Amendment to The Public Health Act of 2018 to provide that there should be no age restrictions on accessing Reproductive Healthcare Services by persons aged 16 years, that includes HIV testing, pre and post-counselling, STI treatment, access to contraceptives and other pregnancy prevention and management tools for adolescents and young people.
“Provisions in the Children’s Act ensuring access to reproductive health services for adolescents and young people under the age of 16;
“We encourage parliamentarians to conduct public hearings with young people to hear their views and understand the extent of the issues presented in the petition.
“Encourage Parliament to consult other youth organisations and entities that may illuminate the issues raised.”
This comes after civil society groups petitioned Parliament to consider and pass relevant legislation that ensures all adolescents and young people under 18 access reproductive health services.
“The Public Health Act of 2018 must be amended to provide that, there should be no restrictions on accessing reproductive healthcare services by persons aged 12 years and above, that includes HIV testing, pre and post-counselling, access to contraceptives and other pregnancy prevention and management tools for adolescents and young people; and to ensure that there are proper administrative measures to monitor and provide reproductive Health rights for persons under 12 years.
“The Children’s Justice Bill also provides for access to reproductive health services for adolescents and young people aged 12 years and above.
“All other appropriate legislation is aligned to ensure consistency among policies guaranteeing access to critical and often lifesaving healthcare services for adolescents and young people,” the petition reads.