By Winfridah Muthee
Plan International Kenya, in partnership with the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) officially launched the Minimum Age of Consent for Sex Report that recommended 18 years and above as the legal age for sex.
The debate on age of consent of sex was sparked by the court of appeal proposal in March 2019 that invited national discussions on mechanism for dealing with children offenders under provisions within the sexual offences Act 2006.
Pricillah Nyokabi Kenya Commissioner (NGEC) and convener of the Youth and Children Division Who graced the event noted that producing a report is not a problem the problem is implementing it.She noted that children’s act need to be amended to be brought into compliant with constitution of Kenya2010.
Nyokabi said that the aim of the launch was to protect children’s rights and therefore called on stakeholders with expertise in children’s matters to act to protect them and called on National and County Governments to enhance resource allocation on children rights initiatives and keep in mind that best interests of the child is beyond education.
The launch comes at a time of constitutional reform where majority of our political leaders are pushing for the BBI to be passed. It should therefore be an eye opener to all stakeholders including judicial, social and faith based organizations to step in and advocate for the rights of children and emphasize on their protection within the family and community circles
Also in attendance were Chairperson Taskforce National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) Lady Justice Martha Koome, Chairperson National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) Dr.Joyce Mwikali Mutinda, NGEC CEO Betty Nyabuto amongst other representatives from Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
Poverty, peer pressure, self-exploration are some of the factors that drive sexual activity among children.
Effects of lowering age for consent of sex leads to child exploitation as observed by the report and majority of the perpetrators are domestic workers, touts, relatives and Bodaboda riders.
Plan International Kenya County Director Ms. Kate Maina noted that during the pandemic lockdown measures and closure of schools led to many cases of children rights violations as sexual abuse cases were on the rise.
Dr Mutinda added that according to the law of Kenya a child is between the age of 0-18 and they are not physically, socially and psychologically developed to make the right decisions and so lowering the age consent for sex would rob off their childhood, education and their future.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and in particular the State Department for Social Protection, is responsible for programmes geared towards safeguarding the welfare and rights of the child from all forms of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect; man-made and natural emergencies, as stipulated in the National, Regional and International legal instruments.
The Constitution on Kenya clearly stipulates that a child is an individual who has not attained the age of eighteen years. The Sexual Offences Act, No. 3 of 2006 which gives the minimum age of consent for sex as 18, is one such law that is meant protect our children from situation where they could be taken advantage of sexually, before they reach adulthood.
On 16th July 2020 Ministry of Labour and Social Protection launched the Violence Against Children (VAC) Survey 2019 Report. Data from the Report indicated that Sexual violence was experienced by 15.6% of females and 6.4% of males before age 18. Among females, 6.8% experienced unwanted sexual touching, 7.5% experienced unwanted attempted sex, 4.3% experienced pressured sex, and 4.3% experienced physically forced sex in childhood.
This report recommends that, “the family must lay greater emphasis on value based parenting to ensure children are exposed to value systems that respect self-image and dignity and which provides children with correct information about their sexuality, reproductive life and how sexuality is connected to economic and social well-being of human kind”.
‘’As the Cabinet Secretary in-charge of Children Affairs and based on the Children Bill 2020, I would strongly recommend that the age of consent should not be LOWERED AT ALL, but measures should be put in place to mitigate the predicaments where young boys as opposed to girls are imprisoned for engaging in sexual activities. ‘’Said Simon Chelugui Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Labour & Social Protection.
The report recommends that the community should stop being in denial and accept children are engaging in sexual activities and should therefore come up with necessary intervention to be able to address it and take up its role in shaping children’s morals.
It further emphasizes that the minimum legal age consent for sex in Kenya is 18 years.