The Rwandan parliament has rejected a bill to change a 2016 law to allow contraception to be supplied to females as young as 15 years old.
The plan was submitted by a group of MPs in order to reduce adolescent pregnancies, which have increased by 21% – from more than 19,000 in 2020 to 23,000 last year, according to officials.
Only 18-year-olds and above are legally allowed to access sexual reproductive health services – but there has been debate among health activists, and cultural and religious leaders about lowering that limit.
The rejection of the bill stops “the anticipated changes” in the law that “has gaps”, Aflodis Kagaba, a Rwandan reproductive health activist, told the BBC.
“Unfortunately, this has overshadowed everything else including the opportunity to re-open these important conversations in parliament,” Mr Kagaba said.
More than 30 MPs who rejected the bill cited their faith, and social and cultural reasons, local media report.
But Mr Kagaba said the current law “has gaps” and believes “it still needs to be revised”.
“Today if you are under 18 and need [sexual and reproductive] health services you are required to be accompanied by parents for their approval!”
“This is a very huge barrier,” he said.