These are shocking statistics. A new report says 15 women are raped in Nairobi every day. This is a criminal violation of not just the women’s human dignity but also their rights. Those who survive the traumatic assault are left scarred and haunted for life.
To make matters worse, victims face the grave risk of being infected with deadly sexually transmitted diseases. Notably, several decades since the first HIV/Aids case was confirmed, there is no cure for the disease. Antiretroviral drugs may prolong lives and enable victims to live fairly normal lives but many of those infected often suffer and eventually succumb to it.
Over the past 12 months, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) has recorded 5,589 rape survivors, 52 of whom were infected with HIV, while 104 got pregnant. Carrying a baby whose father the woman may not even know is harrowing. That explains the calls to allow abortion following rape.
Of course, it is not as easy as that; it is a matter of the right to life and innocence of the foetus, the father’s criminal act notwithstanding. There is also the increasing danger of women and girls being lured to procure unsafe abortions, with grave complications arising from being handled by quacks.
Rape is a countrywide problem. Many of the victims are girls under 18 and some have disability. The minors are subjected to triple suffering: Violation of their purity, exposure to deadly diseases and being left with an adult responsibility of caring for their baby. Talk of children having children. This is what has been described as the triple threat teenagers face (pregnancies, gender-based violence and HIV).
This is a complex social problem with legal and religious dimensions that must be handled delicately in the search for a sound, sensible solution. Abortion is only justified where the life of the mother is in grave danger and carried out by a qualified health professional. But the clergy are not only opposed to abortion but also provision of contraceptives to teenagers. As Health PS Susan Mochache aptly put it, “people under 18 are children” and they must never be given contraceptives.