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The EAC SRH Bill: all you need to know

What is the EAC SRH Bill 2017? What does it seek to achieve? Where are we?

The East Africa Community (EAC) Sexual and Reproductive Health Bill 2017, is a draft legal framework for matters relating to sexual health and protection for all especially children, adolescents, and young people from sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation.

The bill seeks to enable access to universal reproductive health services including reproductive technology.

It was first introduced by former Member, Hon Dr. Odette Nyiramilimo (during the tenure of the 3rd Assembly) and read for the first time (First Reading) on 28th January 2017 accordingly, and referred to the Committee on General Purpose of the 3rd Assembly.

The Bill which is anchored on Article 118 of the EAC Treaty recognizes:

  • Maputo protocol plan of action for the operationalization of African continental policy framework for universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.
  • United Nations Commission on population and development 2013 recognizes sexual reproductive health rights as well as education, gender equality, and population and development as key global efforts to eliminating poverty and achieving sustainable development goals.

The Bill seek to advance key components of reproductive health care; promotion of safe motherhoods across the region for maternal newborn and adolescents’, prevention of harmful practices such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, and retrogressive traditions during initiations and circumcision of boys; prevention of unintended pregnancies, prevention of risky abortion(unsafe abortion)  and sexually transmitted infections including HIV and AIDS and full commitments in ensuring quality sexual reproductive health care, education, and services for citizens of the EAC.

The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) earlier this year (2021) reintroduced the Bill which had been withdrawn in 2017 as a result of the numerous interests shown by partners towards the bill.

The decision to withdraw the bill for further public participation and re-drafting as a result of identified gaps and the existing contests between the different cultures and religions within EAC that feel, the Bill isn’t aligned to their language and practice.

The major issues are around abortion services and how different partner states’ laws either limit or allow access and the aspect of surrogacy and assisted reproduction and In- Vitro Fertilization (IVF), which under the house, it’s against other peoples’ traditions.

The EAC is heavily burdened by high HIV infections, teen pregnancy, unsafe abortion, and increased sexual and gender-based violence. These key issues if not addressed the population largely affected is the youth who are the largest population in the entire East African community. 

The enactment of the EAC SRH Bill 2017, is key in advancing sexual and reproductive health and key to ensuring the highest attainable standards of health for EAC citizens.

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