Avoid Jailing Minors For Consenting To Sexual Acts
By Alvin Mwangi
Adolescents and young people who are minors have been arrested and put in Juvenile for engaging in a variety of sexual acts; some consensual and some non-consensual.
According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) 2008-2009, the median age at first sexual intercourse in Kenya was 18.2 years for women and 17.6 years for men.
Though the median age at first sexual intercourse has been increasing (from 16 in 1993 to 18 in 2008-2009), about 12 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys reported to have had sex by the age of 15.
Do minors fully understand that the law is fully against Minors engaging in sex? Do they fully understand some of these laws? What avenues has the government availed to ensure access to education and information on law when most of the time it is said that Ignorance of the law should not be an excuse.
Gate keepers have not fully created awareness of the law which in most of the time is very complex and filled with a lot of jargons and could be misinterpreted differently by different audiences. Minors are arrested for engaging in consenting sexual acts while the Ministry of education, health including the judicial service commission has not fully done enough to ensure free access of information on sex, sexuality and even law.
Are we not we really burying our heads; when we punish minors for engaging in sexual intercourse while we have not fully addressed access and uptake of information and education on things like Age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, when we have allowed media and internet to avail unregulated information to this children.
The Sexual Offences Act 2006 is an Act of Parliament of Kenya that makes provision about sexual offences, their definition, prevention and the protection of all persons from harm from unlawful sexual acts, and for connected purposes. Adolescents and young people under the age of 18 are prohibited from engaging in any sexual acts with anyone as this is considered defilement among minors. Juvenile jails are filled with minors who engaged in sexual acts; both consenting and non-consensual.
According to chapter 4 of the bill of rights; article 35 mentions that every citizen has the right of access to information held by another person and required for the exercise or protection of any right or fundamental freedom. Access to information enables one to make informed decisions about their personal lives at present and even in the future.
Access to verified, quality and comprehensive information is one of the most sustainable and best way to ensure we reduce on some of the negative outcomes when it comes to reproductive health and health in general.
As a country we need to acknowledge that young people are engaging in sexual activities and are vulnerable to teenage pregnancies and many other reproductive health challenges.
We should protect them and ensure they make well informed choices about their health and general well being. by providing them with age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education we will be able to give them a chance to make decisions about their own bodies, own these decisions and choose to be safe and healthy.
Throughout my work with availing and providing reproductive health information, Adolescents and young people should receive adequate and friendly information and education on things around Human rights and law, Consent and aspects of withdrawing at any one point or time.
Education around acts, guidelines, policies around all Sexual Offences should be packaged and be availed within the School Curriculum.
Education around Sex and Sexuality is equally important and ensures that minors are able to know some of the consequences of engaging in sexual intercourse and how some of the consequences can be disruptors of our social, personal and education lives.
Arresting of Minors for engaging in these acts should stop until such a time when the gate keepers would ensure that the systems have been able to avail information and education on Law and sex education in a friendly, comprehensive and accessible way to all adolescents and young people.
Sexual Reproductive health and rights advocate