A woman walks past a mural during a visit by Netherlands Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen at a Family Health Options clinic in the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya, May 16, 2017. Picture: REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A woman walks past a mural during a visit by Netherlands Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen at a Family Health Options clinic in the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya, May 16, 2017. Picture: REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Kenya hosts global sexual health summit amid protests from Catholics

By Nita Bhalla, Thomson Reuters Foundation Time of article published Nov 11, 2019

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Nairobi - The United

Nations and Kenyan government on Monday came under fire on the

eve a global conference on sexual and reproductive health with

Christian groups claiming hosting the event was promoting

abortion and homosexuality in the east African nation.

More than 6,000 participants - including heads of state,

government ministers, financial institutions, donors and civil

society groups - from 160 nations are due at the International

Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Nairobi.

The three-day meeting will focus on issues ranging from

maternal deaths and child marriage to sex education and female

genital mutilation.

But the Holy See, as well as local faith-based groups and

pro-life campaigners, have criticized the gathering that starts

on Tuesday.

"The agenda of this conference does not represent the spirit

of African culture, which is predominantly pro-life, and the

Constitution of Kenya, which declares life begins at conception

and unborn babies deserve the right to life," said Luis Losada

from CitizenGO, a Christian campaign group.

The United Nations and Kenyan government came under fire on the eve a global conference on sexual and reproductive health with Christian groups. Video: Zodidi Dano/African News Agency.

"Africans are being blackmailed: if you want development

aid, you have to embrace abortion," said Losada, adding that

Kenya was receiving funding from the government of Denmark to

co-host the event with the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA).

According to Kenya's constitution, abortion is permitted

only when a woman's life or health is in danger.

CitizenGo, as well as some Kenyan parliamentarians and

Catholic bishops said the meeting - which will include

discussions on access to sexual health services for the LGBT+

community - will also encourage homosexuality.

Same sex relations are illegal in Kenya and punishable with

up to 14 years in jail.

ROW OVER CONFERENCE

The Vatican said on Friday it would not participate in the

Nairobi Summit as the agenda had been reduced to sexual and

reproductive health rights and sex education and did not take

into account the views of all nations.

"The organizers' decision to focus the conference on a few

controversial and divisive issues that do not enjoy

international consensus and that do not reflect accurately the

broader population and development agenda outlined by the ICPD,

is regrettable," said the Holy See in a statement.

The conference should instead focus on women and children

living in extreme poverty, migration and support for the family

as the basic unit of society, it added.

Every day, more than 800 women die from preventable causes

during pregnancy and childbirth, while 33,000 girls are forced

into marriage, according to the UNFPA.

More than 230 million women want to prevent pregnancy but

are not using modern contraception, and every year more than

four million girls face female genital mutilation.

Kenya's limits on abortion have driven thousands of women

and girls to unregulated clinics, say women's rights groups.

Almost half a million abortions were conducted in Kenya in

2012 - the most recent data available - with one in four women

and girls suffering complications, according to government data.

"This is a global summit, not a Kenya summit. This is an

important issue for women and girls and that is why we cannot

shy away from these difficult issues," said Arthur Erken,

UNFPA's Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships.

"These are issues that need to be discussed ... What to do

with it afterward is the sovereign right of every nation."

A senior government official said a lot of misinformation

had been spread about the summit's agenda and authorities had

been engaging with faith-based organisations to ensure that

concerns were addressed.

"There is no attempt to push issues like homosexuality and

abortion at this conference," said Saitoti Torome, principal

secretary at the state department of planning at the finance

ministry. 

Reuters

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