Western NGOs Target East Africa

By | August 4, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 5 (C-Fam) An obscure intergovernmental body in Africa is debating a controversial health bill that would impose a right to abortion on seven east African countries where abortion is mostly restricted—Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Previous versions of the bill received the backing of western pro-abortion NGO’s, including IPAS, and International Planned Parenthood Federation. The bill is being debated in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), a legislative body of the East African Community (EAC). The EAC is an economic and political bloc composed of seven African member states.

 The East African Community Sexual and Reproductive Health Bill, 2021, mandates access to sexual education and reproductive health services including HIV/AIDS, maternal morbidity and mortality rates, sexual violence, contraception, and family planning. Yet its most contentious articles explicitly call for “abortion services” to be integrated into universal healthcare programs alongside “comprehensive sexuality education,” a controversial set of programs that includes teaching children about homosexuality, gender ideology, and abortion rights.

The East African Community tried to pass a largely similar bill in 2017. After the first draft was rejected, members of the Committee on General Purpose addressed “gaps” in the proposed legislation. The chief concerns that led to the bill being shelved were articles on abortion and reproductive technologies, which contradicted the cultures and religions of the East African countries.

The current draft of the bill was introduced last year. If adopted by the East Africa Legislative Assembly it then bypasses the legislatures of the respective seven countries. If approved by the heads of state of the seven member states of the regional organization, it will supersede any national laws in all EAC member states.

EALA Member of Parliament Kennedy Mukulia of South Sudan, the main sponsor of the bill, attributed the previous defeat of the bill to misinformation and inadequate understanding of sexual education and abortion.

In this regard, the bill itself causes confusion. On the one hand, the bill calls for sex education that is only “age and culturally appropriate.” Yet the bill simultaneously employs controversial language like “comprehensive sexuality education” and “sexual reproductive health and rights,” terms understood to include abortion and gender ideology.

This language can be deeply confusing to those who are not familiar with it. “Age and culturally appropriate” for instance may give some people comfort that their values will be protected. But others will argue that the caveat is largely ineffective. Much of this comes down to those who implement these documents. If the document is obscure enough, they can be interpreted in almost any way.

The East African Community is debating this language even though, the same language has been rejected repeatedly and would never be approved in the UN General Assembly.

Comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health and rights are routinely denounced by African nations in the UN context. Having such a debate far from the General Assembly can be seen as an attempt by western NGOs to go around the UN to impose these bills on African nations. The new policy can then be defended and pronounced in the halls of the UN.

The bill is currently under its second round of hearings in the EALA.