Kenya: Age of Consent - a 'Nation' Conspiracy?

analysis

On the age of consent discussion, the Daily Nation seems to be pushing an agenda. One gets the impression that its editors are keen to see the age of consent remain at 18. That is as opposed to the Court of Appeal judges' suggestion that we consider lowering it to 16.

Thus, rather than just informing people about the issue, and letting them hold an objective discussion, the editors seem to be keen on pushing their own opinions.

Mutuma Mathiu, an influential person at NMG, says as much in his opinion piece, "Law should protect our children from pests, not endanger them," (Daily Nation, March 29, 2019).

The Nation has made very little effort to inform people about the appeal case, Eliud Waweru Wambui v Republic (http://kenyalaw.org/caselaw/cases/view/170043/). It's only by reading through that decision that one can start understanding what the judges suggested, and where they are coming from.

It would also, in my opinion, have been proper to inform the readers that, before the Sexual Offences Bill 2006, the age of consent was 16. The judges are telling us to return to age 16.

Mark you, these are Court of Appeal judges and not some foreign predator-funded NGO. And they are parents, grandparents even.

The Nation seems to prefer publishing "Letters to the Editor" that support the retention of the age of consent at 18.

Contrary opinion is not published. It's as if the editors have taken a moral high ground and assume that anyone supporting the lowering of the age of consent to 16 is a predator. So they imagine that publishing a contrary opinion would amount to aiding predators.

As it is, the law is in fact set up as an entrapment for young men (and more mature men) who are being sent to prison in droves because of it.

One gets the impression that there's a conspiracy to see more young men sent to jail, where they're subjected to pervasive sexual intercourse, and subsequently turned into 'agents'. So there's the view that Nation is part of that conspiracy.

Alternatively, the Nation is eager to tell the readers what they want to hear, and thus feeding into the populist narrative that age of consent should remain at 18. That is a populist narrative fed, on the most part, by ignorance.

So, rather than enlightening people, the Nation seems to prefer to keep the people in the abyss of ignorance, just to sell more copies. Yet I'm persuaded that the sales would be even higher if the Nation opted to enlighten the people instead.

Kazungu Charo

Mwiti Marete, Opinions Editor, the Daily Nation, who also edits letters, responds: "To the best of my knowledge, at no time did Nation editors take a decision to shut out the views of the proponents of lowering the age of sexual consent to 16 years from 18.

"I've also not received instructions from my superiors relating to the debate.

"If the articles have not been published, it was purely a result of editorial decisions -- not moral or otherwise -- on individual pieces and not a blanket rejection. It could be that such articles failed to meet the editorial threshold for publication, there was no space to accommodate them at the time or they were simply overtaken by events by the time they were received at the Opinion Desk.

"You will actually note that even the articles against the lower age of consent that we published were not as many as the complainant's letter may seem to suggest.

"It's worth noting that we are obliged to cover all aspects of a debate fairly. Unless the editor views the article in question to have fallen afoul of the law or generally offensive to our readership, we will publish it."

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