Members of Parliament have rejected a Bill that proposed allowing 15-year-old girls to access contraceptives, saying it is akin to giving them a greenlight to indulge in sex.
The MPs also said the Bill was thrown out on grounds that it is against the country's cultural and religious values. The rejected private members’ Bill amending law No 21/2016 of 20/05/2016 on Human Reproductive Health, was tabled before the Chamber of Deputies by a group of five MPs.
The MPs who initiated the Bill said there was an urgent need to tackle an increase in teenage pregnancies by having easy access to contraceptives.
MPs noted that the Bill was not relevant or necessary, saying it contravenes cultural and religious values of the country.
“Rwanda is a country that has its distinct values, a country that follows God, and many of our previously passed laws were benchmarked on those values, a 15-year-old is still a child on whose shoulders we cannot just thrust such a big responsibility of making decisions on her reproductive health,” said Hon Eugene Barikana, one of the parliamentarians who rejected the Bill.
“Ones right to make decisions around their reproductive health is what is more critical and important, so the person needs to be adequately empowered and old enough before making such decisions,” he said.
Another MP, Bugingo Emmanuel noted that Bill indicates failure of the country’s family structure looks to address the problem of teenage pregnancies.
“Such a Bill is a slap in the face for all of us, it shows the failure of the family structure and other organs of government and society to adequately look after our children, hence the rampant teenage pregnancies that this unnecessary bill comes to address,”
“Where is the role of the family structure, where are the line ministries and institutions, where are the preventive measures and awareness” said Bugingo.
The MPs who sponsored the Bill said they will go back to the drawing board and do more consultations from line stakeholders, while also trying to implement the recommendations obtained from MPs.