Doris Wetaka waddles into the hospital compound in Bududa, with her small frame and noticeably bulging stomach she’s hard to miss. Doris is six months pregnant according to the tattered file she carries along, it also indicates that she is only 15 years of age. The 14-year-old father of her child has get a job to support her and their baby and of course marry her as soon as possible. She is one of the 1 in 4 girls aged 15 to 19 that are already mothers or pregnant with their first child, with higher chances of obstetric fistula, maternal death. Asked if she had any sexual education prior to her encounter, she chuckles timidly and answers in the negative, she also says she thought the first time would not result in a pregnancy. One can only wonder, if she had had knowledge about the dangers she now faced, would she have done things differently?
Comprehensive Sexuality Education intends to cure some of the aforementioned tendencies. According to UNFPA, the objective of CSE is to ensure that young people receive comprehensive, life skills-based sexuality education to gain the knowledge and skills to make conscious, healthy and respectful choices about relationships and sexuality. In the phrase however, one word, ‘sexuality’ really stands out, the other components, ‘comprehensive and education’ seem to get over shadowed while the former remains imprinted the subconscious mind of many. And for some the interpretation veers solely to ‘go ye and have sex no regard whatsoever to age’ totally disregarding even aspects of human rights and gender embedded within.
With this misconception, the subject has been met with different reactions some strongly supporting while others have out rightly made claim that Uganda as country with morals, virtues of an African setting and a God fearing Nation should abandon the concept or delay this type of education until children are grown enough. Evidence like in Doris’s case points to the fact that age is no longer a threshold upon which decisions on sex are made.
Parliament is no different, a motion urging the government to withdraw the policy on Comprehensive Sexuality Education was adopted on 18th August, 2016. Hither to the adoption, a majority of the MPs standing up to second of the motion, pegged increased teen pregnancies, homosexuality, increased prevalence in HIV/AIDS, teen disobedience, abortion and related deaths among other things to the subject. Of course, from an uninformed point of view, that would be the most logical assertion, the MPs ought to read a report or two because there is evidence that CSE has had a positive impact on reproductive and sexual health all over the world. Uganda has very many underlying issues that result into the aforementioned problems and certain questions need to be interrogated before such conversations start. For example, where are teenage pregnancies more prevalent, urban where or rural areas where children don’t have access to this education. homosexuality tendencies, in which demographic is it more prevalent, abortions, HIV/AIDS etc.
When Uganda chose abstinence-only sex education which entailed the Abstinence, Being faithful or Using a condom (ABC) policy back in 1990, it was acknowledged that while ‘A’ was favorable the possibility of sex was imminent and therefore adding ‘B’ and ‘C’ was logical. As a consequence, the rate of HIV/AIDs infections plummeted from 15 – 5% and this was because we were in touch with our reality that sexual activity began as early as age 10 also exacerbated by child marriages.
Today, we live information age, children have access to all kinds of information with the internet and mobile devices. Even in the rural areas, we have bibanda loosely translated as video halls are a common sight and no one sieves the kind of information consumed. Teenagers also have local euphemisms for movies with adult content for instance akafubire, emyara, kanga. So, when we weigh the options would we rather our children receive well-structured guidance in after being exposed to all kinds of information or vice verser?
Hypothetically speaking, lets fast forward to a scenario without Comprehensive Sexuality Education; Sexual reproductive health, HIV/AIDS prevention, Gender equity, we would reverse to a time when teenagers lacked the knowledge required to make decisions on sex responsibly, leaving them vulnerable to coercion, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy. I highly doubt we are well placed to combat the effects of such a decision both in the health and human rights spheres and I pray Parliament reconsiders its stance.