Kenya hosts global sexual health summit amid protests from Catholics
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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
But the Holy See, as well as local faith-based groups and
pro-life campaigners, have criticized the gathering that starts
"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