YONECO Consulting on Age of Consent in MW
Youth Net and Counselling YONECO has implored stakeholders in sexual and reproductive health to start engaging in order to arrive at an agreeable age of consent in the country, in as far as sexual reproductive rights are concerned.
YONECO Executive Director McBain Mkandawire said this at a meeting in Lilongwe Tuesday at a stakeholder meeting where the challenges young people are facing when accessing reproductive services were highlighted.
“When young people go to health facilities to access sexual health services, they meet personnel there who question their presence there instead of being in school since most of them are young. In the end, they fail to access the services then we see rising cases of pregnancy,” said Mkandawire.
Mkandawire has also acknowledged that various sectors in Malawi speak differently on matters bordering on sexual reproductive health rights among the youth.
“The religious bodies call it a sin when young people have sex at a young age, Health rights activists say another and in our community young people are expected to remain in school. So these are the same people the young ones meet when they go to access these services,” explained Mkandawire.
He feels it is time stakeholders agreed on a way forward to ensure young people are assisted in the country saying it is a lie to believe they are not sexually active.
“We once had the ABC; Abstinence, Be Faithful and Condomise if all fails. It’s time to take another step,” said Makandawire.
Executive Director Youth Advocates in Zimbabwe Tatenda Songore agrees with Mkandawire saying Zimbabwe shares similar challenges that have in a way led youth in trouble as evidenced by the rate of teen pregnancies in the country currently at 22%.
Songore adds that Zimbabwe registers about 70,000 illegal abortions translating to 8 abortions per hour.
“This is because these young people are engaging in sexual activities anyway. Whether we like it or not. We must accept it and find a way of solving the problem,” Songore says.
Currently, about 141,000 abortions take place in Malawi annually according to YONECO.
Meanwhile, YONECO plans to engage parliament when it’s done with its consultations with various stakeholders to ensure a consensus is reached on the age of consent.