Reproductive Health Bill in crucial stage of Parliament’s scrutiny

The Reproductive Health Bill, initiated five years ago, reached its key stage following a second tabling before Parliament by the Standing Committee on Social Affairs on Monday.
Mothers await health services at a health centre. The New Times/ T. Kisambira.
Mothers await health services at a health centre. The New Times/ T. Kisambira.

The Reproductive Health Bill, initiated five years ago, reached its key stage following a second tabling before Parliament by the Standing Committee on Social Affairs on Monday.

The Bill that was on second hearing by the Plenary was presented by MP Ignatienne Nyirarukundo although the House could not finish reviewing it by the time it adjourned.

The controversial draft legislation is a private members’ Bill, which is meant to enable most Rwandans access reproductive health care services, and it lists 14 restrictions but does not prescribe punitive measures nor does it reference itself to the penal code, in the event these restrictions were violated.

Among those restrictions include forcibly subjecting a person to sexual intercourse, forcing ones’ spouse to have children against their will, or where, for health or family planning reasons, they do not want to, and marriages between relatives to less than the 7th degree generation, among others.

The legislation, which was initiated by MPs Ezekias Rwabuhihi and Giovanni Renzaho as a private members’ Bill, stipulates that public health facilities have the obligation of providing free family planning services.

The draft law also makes it mandatory for adult Rwandans to adopt reproductive health services to improve quality of life as well as the inclusion of reproductive health education in the national curricula.

Queries

Several MPs questioned some content of the Bill, mainly pointing out that the Bill sets restrictions but no punitive measures.

Long-serving lawmaker Desire Nyandwi wondered how authorities would punish a couple that chose to get married when their relationship is below the seventh degree generation.

“And what happens to those that have a close relationship and they are already married?” Nyandwi asked.

Nyirarukundo, however, responded that there is no law punishing that so far and that what the reproductive bill offers as an alternative is creating public awareness and not punishing.

MP Juliana Kantengwa said for the sake of economic planning, the Bill should have clearly stipulated the number of children a family should have.

“Indeed, the number of children a family should have is personal as it is completely a private affair; however I want us to look at it in terms of economic planning, when a family produces children that are beyond their capacity, they end up failing to raise them and this is how you find many children on streets.

“Then, government spends money on these children when say; they are taken to Iwawa training and rehabilitation centre. I still believe there should be administrative measures to manage all these issues,” said Kantengwa.

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