A major showdown is looming between the Catholic Church and the government of Uganda after a Cabinet minister announced a plan to distribute condoms and other contraceptives in schools to curb teenage pregnancy.
The programme will target schoolgirls aged between 14 and 18 years. The Catholic Church totally rejects the use of any contraceptives.
The church is a major player in Uganda’s education sector, with about 139 pre‐primary schools, 4,775 primary schools, 594 secondary schools and 150 higher education institutions.
A large number of girls are dying from abortion-related complications, according to the minister for primary health care Sarah Opendi, and it is “unethical” for women to die from preventable causes, the government-owned daily, New Vision, reports.
Reports say about 16 women die in pregnancy-related complications every day in Uganda. And for every one woman who dies, 15 more develop pregnancy related complications including fistula.
“We have an age bracket of 14 to 18 years. Many of these teenage girls get pregnant but, they are not ready”, said Opendi.
“They can’t tell their parents that they are pregnant. They can’t tell their teachers. And the boys who have made them pregnant are usually their classmates and they can’t help. These girls usually end up trying to get rid of the foetus and at times they die.”
“We shall set up youth friendly corners at their schools, hospitals, where they can go and get helped,” said Opendi, adding that they will likely provide them condoms and pills on top of counseling.
“You don’t know what some of these girls go through,” said the minister. “When they can’t confide in anyone and are desperate to get the foetus out they will do anything.”