Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has called for stiffer penalties for men who sexually assault and physically abuse children as the number of teenage pregnancies and new HIV infections soar.
Speaking in Nyeri during a sensitisation forum to end the triple threats facing adolescents (HIV infection, pregnancies and sexual and gender-based violence), the CS said that it was no longer a matter to be taken lightly and communities should embrace traditional methods of punishing the perpetrators.
“Traditionally, when a man raped a child, they were placed in a box akin to a hive and rolled down from a cliff. That way, no man will look at a child with any form of desire. We cannot continue like this, it is not possible,” he said.
He also said Kenya should no longer soothe people who commit such atrocities on children.
“They should be put in beehives full of bees and thrown into a river and flow with it. We do not want to hear stories of due processes and conversations with the chief urging these people to rectify. The biggest human right is the human right of the teenager,” he said.
“You cannot tell me about the human rights of someone who has raped a 10-year-old. What human rights are those? People who do that are not human beings, those are animals.”
Between January and May, 109,110 adolescents attended antenatal clinics across the country, 720 of those in Nyeri County.
The CS also noted that there is an 85 per cent increase in sexual and gender-based violence cases reported among adolescents aged between 10 and 17, with 16,7476 cases reported last year, up from 2, 466 in 2016.
In the last five months, Nyeri has reported 562 cases of sexual and physical abuse of children aged 10 to 17.
“These cases negate the gains we make in the health and education sectors, and as we know, sexual violations among children increase their risk of contracting HIV and therefore we must all come together and address these challenges,” Mr Kagwe noted.
Last year, records show that only 5,890 defiled adolescents accessed post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection, while 236 children acquired the virus and 1, 665 became pregnant as a result of rape.
Mr Kagwe stated that there was a correlation between teen pregnancies, gender-based violence and new HIV infections, which stood at 32,000 per year, down from 77,647 in 2016. At least 51 per cent of these new infections are among adolescents aged nine to 19.
“This is still far from our desired target because the challenge is that more than half of these infections occur among adolescents and young people below 24 years of age,” he stated as he launched the ‘Komesha Mimba za Utotoni’ campaign.
In addition, CS Kagwe said the treatment outcome for HIV was sub-optional due to adherence challenges, especially among young people.
In 2021, a total of 5,288 people died from Aids-related complications and many were children and young people below 24 years old.
He noted that Kenya spends about Sh25.4 billion every year procuring commodities to manage the disease.
Nyeri has an estimated 20,233 people living with HIV, of whom 1,435 are adolescents aged between 10 and 19. In 2021, there were 226 new infections in the county.
The National Aids Control Council, in partnership with the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, National Council for Population Development and County Government of Nyeri organized the sensitization forum.