PRESS Statement 8th April, 2019; 10:00 am:
The Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) has opposed the reduction of the age of consent from 18 to 16. It has urged the government to devise strategies to increase understanding of sexual and reproductive health.
“COVAW calls upon the Kenyan government to develop a comprehensive sexual education curriculum and come up with practical strategies to implement the curriculum in both primary and secondary schools and also in technical and vocational institutions,” it said. Sex education would provide young adults with cognitive, social and interpersonal skills, COVAW said.
“Sex education would significantly contribute to delaying the initiation of sex, reduce the number of sexual encounters and sexual partners amongst young adolescent girls and boys at puberty stage, and training them to behave responsibly when they eventually engage in sexual activity.” COVAW stated that sex education would be beneficial in various ways.
“This information is not only about their physiology and their better understanding of the norms that society has set for sexual behaviour, but also the need to acquire the skills necessary to develop healthy relationships and engage in responsible decision-making about sex.”
With the right information at a tender age, young girls will be less vulnerable to their immediate environment, especially as they interact with various people in the community, it said.
“It is therefore important for the government to take a lead in giving comprehensive sexual and reproductive education other than contemplating lowering the age consent to 16 years.”
The proposal to lower the age of consent came from three Court of Appeal judges, who cited the lengthy jail terms imposed on young men convicted of abuse.
They made the proposal after they reversed a 15-year sentence slapped on a man who had impregnated a 17-year-old girl.
The extension could be made to persons who are 18 and still pursuing high school education but in no way can it be extended to adults who are not within the high school student purview. Those are instead choosing to prey on our young girls Coalition on Violence against Women COVAW pointed out that young men between the ages of 18 and 21 are being convicted for sexual liaisons with girls below the age of 18.
“Once the age is reduced, if no other remedies are put in place to reduce the moral decadence, then we will simply have transferred the problem as there will be a rise in the number of boys aged between 16 and 19 who will be jailed for the same offences hence taking us back to the same situation we are in at the moment.”
COVAW said the only consideration, if any, would be to respond to the rise of Romeo and Juliet cases (child-to-child consensual teenage sex).
“In this regard, a proposal would be to amend the Sexual Offences Act to put in special measures to protect children who are voluntarily engaging in these relations.”
COVAW said the Kenyan Constitution should borrow from the Canadian jurisdiction and limit the age difference to two years, both parties to be in school and use no force or coercion.
“The extension could be made to persons who are 18 and still pursuing high school education but in no way can it be extended to adults who are not within the high school student purview. Those are instead choosing to prey on our young girls.”
COVAW explained that lowering the age of consent could put girls at risk of early pregnancies and adverse birth outcomes due to the gynaecological immaturity and incomplete pelvic growth.
It will also force children to drop out of school earlier than they would have and take up roles they are not yet ready for, which could lead to increase in poverty, the lobby said.
“Allowing a blanket decision to reduce the age without even due consideration to the people who will end up providing for the babies resultant of such unions is a joke.”
COVAW said it is time to have discussions around the topic of teenage sex.
“This should, in no way, be interpreted to mean entertaining talks on the age reduction for consent. If anything, the age of sex of sexual consent should be increased.”