One of the highest ranking Catholic Church leaders Monsignor Filipo Rukamba has added his voice to the exploding teenage pregnancies across Rwanda – suggesting the birth pills that women are getting, and other contraceptives, are not working.
Msgr Rukamba is the head of the episcopal conference of Rwanda, essentially the chair of the 7-man team of Bishops leading the Church in Rwanda.
News emerging is that on Sunday, in a speech at festivities to mark Butare Diocese in southern Rwanda, which he heads, Msgr Rukamba spoke at length about contraceptives.
He said pills and the other ways commonly used by women were clearly not working. To illustrate his point, Rukamba said 20 girls with babies in Butare parish came to seek his help.
But that when he asked them to mobilise other girls in similar situation, some 240 showed up. He also added that another Bishop of a different diocese he did not name had 400 girls with babies.
Rukamba also revealed that there are 1,000 girls with babies in one of the parishes of Kigali.
“It is caused by girls loosening themselves,” said Msgr Rukamba. “Even if they give you those pills, the the only medicine is you. The Bazungu (white people) who spread the contraceptives are themselves having many babies they don’t want, as other abort.”
Rukamba said during his inquiry to find out why the girls are having babies uncontrollably, he was told it was the boys and men to blame.
Here is how he narrated: “We asked some girls: ‘what is going on?’ They said: ‘the boy lied to me that he loved me and impregnated me’. And then I asked what happened. They said: ‘raising a child is tough so I sought help from another boy who also impregnated me’. So it has become a matter of being impregnated here and there.”
Msgr Rukamba said the girls should be sensitised to be aware that nobody, “except yourselves”, is responsible to help them once they choose to have babies they cannot managed.
Monsignor Rukamba’s latest comments come amid a Catholic Church silent war with Government over contraceptives. The Chronicles has reported recently of a heated attack by the Health Minister Dr Diane Gashumba when she informed Parliament that the Catholic Church was not allowing hospitals it controls to supply contraceptives.
On June 25, government sent a ministerial delegation to negotiate with the Catholic Church. Dr Gashumba was supposed to be on the delegation but she skipped the meeting – perhaps aware that her presence would be a distraction.
Despite government pressure, the Catholic Church has remained put – that it favours what it has called “natural ways”. The June meeting did not change this stance.
The Catholic Church’s opposition to scientific birth control is such a big challenge to government, as Rwanda is the most densely populate country in the world.
According to the 2012 census, 44% of the 11m Rwandans were Catholics – which may not have changed at all over past 7 years, creating a significant problem for government if all these followers are not handled.