, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 2 – With just one day to go to the Constitution referendum, a new report by a human rights watchdog shows that 92 percent of women in Kenyan slums have procured an abortion at least once in their lifetime.
The report by the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) comes at a time when the Constitution debate has reached its peak with the church opposing the proposed Constitution over the abortion clause.
"Despite the fact that the respondents were exposed to high risks of complications, most of them did not bother to undergo a follow up in a hospital," KHRC Acting Deputy Executive Director Tom Kagwe said on Monday.
Mr Kagwe said 80 percent of the abortions were through perforation of the cervix to induce premature labour, 15 percent used herbs while the other five percent used medical personnel.
"Whether or not the debate on abortion will inform people (on the way to vote in the referendum) it is clear that even before 4th of August unsafe abortion has been procured and even after that people will still secure unsafe abortion countrywide," he said.
The study was done among 65 women between March and April last year in Korogocho slums.
"At least 60 percent of the respondents attend religious services or ceremonies once or twice a week but it seems they don\’t listen to their preachers and the challenge is back in their (preachers) court," Mr Kagwe said.
"The Constitution cannot help religious leaders; they should seek to know what their doctrine is and why it is not getting to the young girls," he added.
He said about 60 percent of those interviewed were between the ages of 18 and 22 years.
He termed it unfortunate that men seemed to dominate the abortion debate especially over the proposed Constitution whereas they failed to take responsibility which led to women to procure abortions.
"Abortion should not be treated as a philosophical and moral or religious argument. It is an issue that has real problems and has very dangerous impact on the lives of women," he said.
He said there was urgent need for reproductive and sexual health education in schools so that young girls could know the other available options like use of condoms and contraception.
He said the available reproductive health facilities were not adolescent friendly and so were avoided by the sexually active youth.
"We found that religion does not play a significant role in youth sexuality," he said.
Mr Kagwe said that the government spends about Sh18 million annually to treat post abortion-related complications.