What you need to know:
- In Kenya, we often hear of cases where adolescents girls are defiled by their close relatives and guardians.
- The pain of pregnant adolescent girls dropping out of school, procuring an unsafe abortion or being married off to an elderly man isn’t seen as a big problem.
The society has left the burden of teenage pregnancy to lie solely on the shoulders of the girls, who are often stigmatised and discriminated against even by their immediate family.
We seem to forget that, at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic early last year, the Ministry of Health reported more than 5,000 cases of sexual violence across the country, 65 per cent of them involving girls under 18, many of whom live in poverty.
In 2015, the rate of rape against girls was at 1.9 per 100,000 people and it fluctuates every year. The World Health Organization (WHO) says most adolescents’ first sexual encounter is forced.
In Kenya, we often hear of cases where adolescents girls are defiled by their close relatives and guardians.
As cases increase, calls to protect the girls’ lives and futures are considered Western ideology and land on deaf ears. Sadly, rape and defilement have been normalised to a point that some community elders have monetised the vice to a mere thousand-shilling fine misdemeanour.
Sexual and reproductive health
Clearly, the pain of pregnant adolescent girls dropping out of school, procuring an unsafe abortion or being married off to an elderly man isn’t seen as a big problem.
Speaking in Trans Nzoia, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i lamented that 10,000 school-going girls were impregnated in the county, mainly by adults, in recent months. But instead of getting angry, self-declared puritans are accusing the victims of lacking morality and self-discipline.
Society has failed to provide these vulnerable underage girls with access to accurate information on sexual and reproductive health. And, instead of punishing the perpetrators of sexual violence against them, some of us even shield them from the law.
One teenage pregnancy is enough data for the government to implement the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy, the National Guidelines for Provision of Adolescents and Youth Friendly Services in Kenya and the Kenya National School Health Policy.
Teen pregnancy is a societal issue; let’s act fast.
Ms Odhiambo is the youth coordinator at Reproductive Health Network Kenya. [email protected]