Youth rights advocates have initiated a conversation on age of consent for access to Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) Services.
Age of Consent has traditionally been restricted to sexual intercourse, but advocates argue that there is now a growing understanding of the need to broaden the scope towards a rights- based approach which includes analyzing age of consent in relation to accessing critical sexual and reproductive health services.
The age of consent and access to SRH services policy that is being pushed, seeks to inform civil society program managers, policy makers and other key decision makers on the need to transform legal and operational restrictions on age of consent and how it affects access to reproductive services among young people.
According to MacBain Mkandawire Executive Director for Youth Net Counselling (YONECO), one of the organizations pushing for the agenda, the intent of laws and policies on age consent is to protect children and adolescent.
“It should be understood in the context of ensuring young people are able to legally access an array of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services,” added Mkandawire.
Currently there are conflicting laws and policies which creates confusion, uncertainty and stigma amongst healthcare providers and uncertainty and fear amongst young people to access the services.
The advocates are however hopeful that de-sexualizing SRHR services will ensure that there’s no age restrictions in services such as HIV testing, pre and post counselling, STI treatment, access to contraceptives and other pregnancy prevention and management tool for adolescents and young people.