The Government of Rwanda with support from numerous organisations has been at the forefront of the battle against teenage pregnancy. Their programmes and initiatives mainly focus on protecting young girls against this social ill.
The question is whether access to contraceptives is an effective policy that can work to alleviate the rising teenage pregnancy numbers or not. Based on different researches, the answer is yes, for a number of reasons, which therefore creates an urgent need for policymakers to grant access to contraceptives to teenagers to fight the vice of unwanted pregnancies.
Evidence has indicated that teenagers in this country are sexually active below the age of 15. It is earlier than expected and one of the reasons why legal barriers to contraception should be removed. According to a recent survey, sexual awareness and activities begin at a much younger age.
This is why girls of the ages 13, 14, and 15 are highly reported to have unwanted pregnancies. “At the age of 15, I had my first child, I was threatened by my family after getting pregnant,” one teenage mother narrated while asked why she dropped out of school.
While age 18 is considered ‘mature’ enough for one to have the right to decide and choose concerning human reproductive health issues, official statistics registered that between 2017 and 2018, under-18 pregnancies increased by about 14 percent, from 17,337 to 19,832. Legal barriers should not be an issue because accessing contraceptives to minors is one way of safeguarding their future.
Under the age of 18, teenagers are already informed about sexual health and reproductive matters and therefore, it makes no sense for them to be taught about it yet not have access to contraceptives. The urgent need to advocate for their rights to access contraceptives should be enforced the same way on sexual reproductive health information and sex education awareness campaigns.
It is still very important that we inform young people about the dangers of indulging in early sexual intercourse; however, it is still up to them to make the decision, which should be the way to go. Restricting contraceptives would hinder the impact on concerns that teenagers have on Reproductive Health, Family Planning, and the prevention of teenage pregnancy.
For minors, the consequences of unwanted pregnancies by far outweigh the impact of contraceptives access. It is because children having other children have far worse effects on their health status including new life responsibilities. This also permeates to the newborn.
Unwanted pregnancies lead to serious health complications at a young age, it also causes great stigma on the affected girl. The concern that giving them access to contraceptives would lead to side effects at a young age should also consider the effect of unwanted pregnancy.
It is a subject that policymakers should approach with openness to ensure that communication is encouraged between adolescents and society. It has also shown that the side effects of contraception are manageable and all the misconceptions about the practice are unproven. Policymakers should take into consideration effective interventions and mechanisms to support and enable adolescents to obtain appropriate contraceptives. Contraceptives should be regulated in the first place. Unlike firearms, alcohol, or voting, contraceptives are personal matters to the individual.
An open discussion should be done between the public and teenagers themselves concerning contraceptives. It will decrease teenage pregnancy rates and statistics thus being the alternative method to avoid problems that are more dangerous for young victims on their education, health- HIV/AIDS, STIs, poverty, and the society as well.
Besides, those who oppose the use of contraceptives for teenagers argue that since their age does not allow sexual intercourse, it would be contrary to the law to provide them with contraceptives. I hope that the policymakers will see what this issue means to the victims, and will consider this feasible solution of allowing access to contraceptives to fight against teenage pregnancies.
The change will only happen when resistance and denial will be left behind, because several cases of victims are worrying, breaking the silence is not enough, also acting on to find the solution.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE ALSO HERE: https://www.newtimes.co.rw/opinions/access-contraceptives-effective-tool-fight-teenage-pregnancy