On Saturday, 19 th September we had the occasion to host Mr. Charles Kanjama. Mr. Kanjama is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a Company Secretary. He is one of the founding partners of Muma and Kanjama Advocates. He is also the current chairperson of the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum (KCPF). The discussion revolved around the work that is done by the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum, and more particularly, on the current status of the Reproductive Healthcare Bill, a bill that has been the subject of considerable debate in Kenya.
He stated at the outset that the KCPF is an organization that brings together Christian professionals of various denominations sharing common values of Life, Family, Religion and value-based Education and Governance. They provide technical support in influencing the development of a legal and social environment that is supportive of biblical values in society through research, advocacy, mentorship and witnessing. In this respect, they partner with the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) and the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya (EAK). Emphasis was placed on the fact that the organization has a Christian identity which it is not ashamed to uphold with a view to fulfilling its mission in Kenya.
One of the issues the organization has had to contend with recently is the proposal for the passing of the Reproductive Health Care Bill, which for the second time came before the Senate. Opinion has been quite sharply divided over the Bill, especially on three key issues which Mr. Kanjama categorised as follows:
(a) Termination of pregnancy;
(b) Sexuality education for adolescents; and
(c) The treatment of infertility.
The Bill allows for the termination of pregnancy where in the opinion of a trained health professional there is need for emergency treatment; the pregnancy would endanger the life or health of the mother; or there is a substantial risk that the foetus would suffer from a severe physical or mental abnormality that is incompatible with life outside the womb. A healthcare professional means a registered clinical officer, a registered nurse and a registered midwife who has acquired the relevant skills for decision-making and provision of reproductive health services.
Mr. Kanjama raised the concern that a wide array of healthcare professionals can provide an abortion yet some, including a nurse, may not be qualified enough to give a compelling opinion on whether or not there is need for an abortion to be conducted. Furthermore, the bill raises the chances of more abortions being conducted by allowing it for reasons other than the fact it would endanger the life of the mother. This is inconsistent with the underlying notion that an abortion is not a right, but a limitation to the right to life guaranteed in Article 26 of the Constitution. Furthermore, while the Bill allows for a conscientious objection, the professional must refer a patient to another healthcare professional willing to provide the service. This is irrespective of their beliefs on the issue which in a way hampers their freedom.
The second issue was on the proposal to introduce comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents. It was noted that while education on sexuality was good, the bill proposed an education that was non-judgmental. It would be value-free, meaning the education was not geared towards enlightening people on the need to avoid teenage sex and the values to uphold in that respect. As a result, teenagers would be more susceptible to teenage pregnancy because the problem is not tackled at its root.
Lastly, the bill allows people to enter into surrogate parenthood agreements where a woman agrees to carry a baby on behalf of a man and a woman who want to have a child, but are unable to have a child. This easily lends to exploitation of women which has taken place quite a lot in other jurisdictions. Furthermore, it is not consistent with the best interests of the child, a supervening principle in Kenyan constitutional law. It is in the best interests of a child that he be raised with his biological parents (father and mother) and a surrogate parenthood agreement does not accord him that opportunity. Against this background it was noted that we have to engage in a cultural battle against the incoming of such trends and tendencies. Quite connected to this is the need to be understanding with others who may be facing similar issues. While we must be objective especially from a policy perspective, the moment of implementation needs a lot of charity as we deal with people who find themselves in complex situations.
In conclusion, Mr. Kanjama indicated that students were invited to join the KCPF or even to begin a university chapter in their respective universities.