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Adolescents must learn about contraceptives

The Legal Assistance Centre has called on the Ministry of Health and Social Services to provide clearer guidance to service providers on when they should provide children and adolescents with various forms of contraceptives.
The Centre also encouraged non-judgemental and confidential family planning services for adolescents with appropriate action and support where child sexual abuse is suspected, in a statement released recently. Frontline service providers such as nurses should be provided with training on how to provide youth-friendly health services. The training and information should include support for children in same sex relationships.
According to the Legal Assistance Centre, access to contraceptives is currently governed by the general medical treatment sections of the Children’s Act 33 of 1960 which sets the age of consent to medical treatment and operations at 18.  Access to information about reproductive health and access to contraceptives that do not fall under the terminology of medical treatment is governed by ministerial  policy.
“Access to contraceptives is a controversial topic in Namibian Society. Currently there is confusion in the law and policy and the government appears unwilling to give guidance on this specific aspect of the right to health. The problem of lack of knowledge about and correct use of modern methods of contraceptives is also illustrated by queries the Legal Assistance Centre received during the consultations on the Child Care and Protection Bill,”said the statement.
The Centre further said that the 2011 National Standards for Adolescent-friendly Health Services places a strong emphasis on providing adolescents with information about reproductive health.
“However neither this nor any other policy quantifies the age at which service providers may provide adolescents with contraceptives that are not medical treatment. Due to this lack of guidance, some service providers are unwilling to provide them to adolescents.”
The Centre also said that a provision to allow access to contraceptives without parental permission at age 14 was included in an early draft of the Child Care and Protection Bill but has since been removed.
“Whilst it is not critical for this provision to be included in the legislation since strong and well implemented policy measures could accomplish the same objective, there is a clear need for improvement in specific guidance from the government on adolescent access to contraceptives and confidential information about family planning.”
The Centre further called on principals, teachers, school guidance counsellors, community members and family members to play a more active role in bridging the gap to provide accessible information and advice on reproductive health and contraceptives for adolescents.

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