A comparative human rights analysis of laws and policies for adolescent contraception in Uganda and Kenya

Authors & affiliation

Katrina Perehudoff, Denis Kibira, Elke Wuyts, Carles Pericas Escale, Joyce Omwoha, Hendrika A. van den Ham, Aukje K. Mantel-Teeuwisse, Kristien Michielsen


Background Improving access to adolescent contraception information and services is essential to reduce unplanned adolescent pregnancies and maternal mortality in Uganda and Kenya, and attain the SDGs on health and gender equality. This research studies to what degree national laws and policies for adolescent contraception in Uganda and Kenya are consistent with WHO standards and human rights law. Methods This is a comparative content analysis of law and policy documents in force between 2010 and 2018 governing adolescent (age 10-19 years) contraception. Between and within country differences were analysed using WHO's guidelines "Ensuring human rights in the provision of contraceptive information and services". Results Of the 93 laws and policies screened, 26 documents were included (13 policies in Uganda, 13 policies in Kenya). Ugandan policies include a median of 1 WHO recommendation for adolescent contraception per policy (range 0-4) that most frequently concerns contraception accessibility. Ugandan policies have 6/9 WHO recommendations (14/24 sub-recommendations) and miss entirely WHO's recommendations for adolescent contraception availability, quality, and accountability. On the other hand, most Kenyan policies consistently address multiple WHO recommendations (median 2 recommendations/policy, range 0-6), most frequently for contraception availability and accessibility for adolescents. Kenyan policies cover 8/9 WHO recommendations (16/24 sub-recommendations) except for accountability. Conclusions The current policy landscapes for adolescent contraception in Uganda and Kenya include important references to human rights and evidence-based practice (in WHO's recommendations); however, there is still room for improvement. Aligning national laws and policies with WHO's recommendations on contraceptive information and services for adolescents may support interventions to improve health outcomes, provided these frameworks are effectively implemented. Plain language summary The unmet need for contraception among adolescents is high in Uganda and Kenya, and has many negative consequences, including unwanted pregnancy, exposure to unsafe abortion, and maternal morbidity and mortality. National laws and policies play an important role in determining adolescents' access to contraception. For example, national laws and policies can shape the government programs that provide (or withhold) contraception, and the social norms influencing adolescents' access to contraception. Therefore, this research compares national laws and policies that determine access to contraception services and information for adolescents in Uganda and Kenya with WHO's recommendations for access to contraception. This is an analysis of the content of Ugandan and Kenyan laws and policies in force between 2010 and 2018. The content of these documents was analyzed using WHO's nine recommendations for how contraception information and services should be provided: non-discrimination, availability, accessibility, acceptability, quality, informed decision-making, confidentiality, participation, accountability. Ninety-three documents were screened and 26 documents were included in the analysis: 13 policies from Uganda and 13 policies from Kenya. On average, Ugandan policies include one WHO recommendation for adolescent contraception per policy and Kenyan policies include two WHO recommendations. This recommendation most frequently mentioned in all policies is the accessibility of contraception (for example, for adolescents living remotely, integrated in adolescent HIV or pre-/post-natal care, etc.). Together, all Ugandan policies mentioned 6/9 WHO recommendations whereas all Kenyan policies cover 8/9 WHO recommendations. In conclusion, Ugandan and Kenyan policies are consistent with many of WHO's recommendations for access to contraception, however, there is still room for improvement.

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Kristien Michielsen

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s12978-021-01303-8.pdf (open)

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