‘Half victory’ as Senate suspends controversial Reproductive Healthcare Bill

While opponents of the bill can breathe a temporary sigh of relief, proponents are lobbying against any amendments to the document

The Senate has temporarily shelved the Reproductive Healthcare Bill 2019 sponsored by Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika. This is to allow for public participation following protests from religious leaders, Christian professionals and pro-lifers who cited sections they found offensive, threatening to the family institution and inimical to the national culture and heritage.

Ann Kioko, an advocacy expert and campaigns manager at CitizenGo Africa, told the SHEPHERD on July 20 that the Senate Committee handling the bill called to inform her recently that they had listened to concerns raised and had temporarily stopped debate until all the contentious issues were resolved through public participation.

“It is a half victory for pro-lifers, Christian professionals and religious leaders. Now we need a united approach to present one common stand. What we are waiting for is the letter detailing the way forward,” said Ms Kioko.

On June 25, CitizenGo Africa presented a petition containing 20,000 signatures to Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, the Senate Committee on Health and Ms Kihika seeking to have the bill shelved. Kiokosaid the Senate had proved it had the interests of the nation at heart by suspending the bill.

However, citing a source in the Senate, she added that proponents of the bill were lobbying for the legislators to reject any amendments to it.

“It is a continuous war. They may have a war chest to buy politicians but if we are united, we shall overcome,” she said.

Charles Kanjama, a lawyer and the chairman of Kenya Christian Professionals Forum, told the SHEPHERD that Christian lawyers welcomed the suspension that would allow for consultations among stakeholders.

“It needs a substantial overhaul. We expect a new document after public participation. I think the earliest the bill can come back to the Senate is after three months, after every view has been taken into consideration. The building of goodwill is very important in this process,” hesaid.

Opponents of the bill say if it is passed without any amendments, it would normalise underage sex and open the door for children aged between 10 and 17 years to receive and use contraceptives, and procure safe abortions. They feel this is sure to drive a wedge between parents and children with regard to health and sexuality among other issues.