28 March 2019

Kenya: Time for Sex-Shy Kenyans to Talk About Age of Sexual Consent

Photo: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS
(file photo)

Picture this: You are a girl in Form Two, hormones are surging through your veins, you have just outgrown you childhood stick - like figure and gotten those admirable feminine curves, your skin is flawless and the male species has just started noticing you.

You go to a 'funkie' and meet the most handsome lad from your brother school. He is a prefect, with broad shoulders, a deep voice and in Form Four. And guess what, he noticed you too!

You love affair begins slowly, with the occasional letters to each other. You even join other clubs to make sure you meet in more 'funkies'. You exchange phone numbers, and plan to meet over the holidays.

The love grows, the feelings get more intense- the hormones overwhelm you. Your young man finishes secondary school, plans on going to campus. Over the December holidays you meet and catch up, knowing that you will next see each other in April, if he hasn't reported to university yet.

THROWN IN JAIL

You try to make the most of the meeting- you have sex. Your parents find out and they get the young man thrown in jail.

You know that he did not force you, you love him. Given a choice, you would make the same decision.

In court, the judge does not want to hear your side of the story, you are only 16 years old, what do you know? Your boyfriend turned 18 two months ago, but he should have known better. The shortest jail term for defiling a minor is 15 years.

Such are the scenarios that three judges have been deciding on, prompting them to make a proposal that the country needs to reevaluate the current stand on sex and possibly lowering the age of sexual consent.

The bench made up of two men and a woman suggested that a national conversation was long overdue on how old one needs to be to make a decision regarding sex. They deliberately pointed out that teens, with or without their parents' knowledge are engaging in sexual activities.

BREAK THE SILENCE

They decided to break the silence about the taboo subject and propose making it legal for young people to express their love. This has opened a can of worms.

We are damned if we do lower the age of consent and we are damned if we don't. If we do, it means that a 40 year old man can effectively and legally seduce a 16 year old school girl, get her pregnant and get away scot free. A 25 year old house help can 'get married' to her employer's 17 year old son.

It also means young people can show their love for each other without the law getting in their way.

I feel that before we even begin talking of changing the law, we need to raise the issue of sex education. I do not just mean in schools.

Charity begins at home, the first point of contact for such a topic should be at home with one's own parents. Mothers and fathers should take the time and talk to their children about their changing bodies, what those changes mean, what sex is and most importantly, the consequences of sex.

As much as the actions may be confined to two people, the results often affect the entire community. If children are borne out of those actions and diseases arise from the coupling, then other people apart from the couple will definitely be involved, no?

DELEGATE TO TEACHERS

Parents should not be lazy or too busy to delegate this duty to teachers; they should educate themselves thoroughly then pass on that knowledge to the children. The teachers' work should be to reinforce the teachings and add more where information is lacking.

With effective education, young people will know why they should or should not be engaging in sex, how to do so safely and what to do in case of an emergency. I believe it would even deter sex pests, as children would know how to speak out should anyone touch them inappropriately.

I am glad however, that the ruling was made. It has forced Kenyans to talk about sex. This was long overdue.

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