Members of the East Africa Legislative Assembly have conducted the second public hearing Monday, with South Sudan stakeholders on the draft bill on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Juba.
The Bill, which is anchored on the Regional Treaty, seeks commitment of each partner state to cooperate in the development of a member-states reproductive health system.
It also aims to harmonize national health policies and regulations to achieve quality health within the community by 2030.
This is to protect and facilitate the attainment of life-course sexual and reproductive health, and rights of all persons in the Community.
Last week’s public session brought together regional representatives, and the national Ministries of Justice, Gender and Health.
Other stakeholders who took part in the discussion were lawyers and religious leaders.
Some participants including gender advocates and members of the civil society have hailed the bill and called for its endorsement by the government, as a tool to safeguard the reproductive health of young women and girls.
However, some provisions in the bill have invoked disagreement among the stakeholders, with religious leaders and traditional chiefs voicing concerns on the topic of abortion and family planning.
For his part, Pastor James Alexandra of the African In-land Church said abortion should not be encouraged unless on circumstances endangering the life of a mother
“We are against abortion we don’t encourage abortion if it happened and child die in his mother womb this one can be done,” said the man-of-God.
Pastor James emphasized on the need to compromise on the issue citing moral ground.
“It depends on each country and if it is rejects then we have to come and sit down again and see where disagreement is, it’s about some of the right and we have to make sure we have a better approached when it come thing like sexual abuse and health.”
The bill was drafted by the regional parliament in 2017, and subjected to grassroots consultation among member states.
However, five years on, the regional legislative body has not passed the bill into law.
In February last year, the East African Legislative Assembly announced it was withdrawing and rephrasing parts of the bill due to public concerns.
“The most important part of the bill is to help our citizen access sexual health reproductive service and to be informed about the accessibility of this information,” said Rutazana Francis, a member of the East African Parliament.
“The bill is important for them to know which kind of service they need according to age and special the need of young people and indolence,” Hon. Francis.
The draft pending approval, is also intended to provide for integrated sexual and reproductive health information and services as part of the universal health coverage of each Partner State.
Each member state including South Sudan is obliged to ensure programs on family planning, information and education to its citizens.
“When we talk about something in South Sudan it will be the same as other partner states when it comes to the objective and interest of the people of the community,” said Mr. Francis.
Upon further public hearing sessions, the bill will then be taken to the East African Parliament to be passed into law.
In November last year, members of parliament representing South Sudan at the East African Legislative Assembly have conducted a two-day consultative meeting, with stakeholders on the East African Community’s Sexual-Reproductive Health bill in Juba.
According to reports by the Global Health Action, women excessively bear the burden of mortality related to sexual and reproductive health, with one woman dying out of every 126 live births in South Sudan.
Women across all age groups have little choice but to meet the childbearing demands of husbands and their families, the report said.
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