What you need to know:
- President Uhuru directed NCRC to probe the teen pregnancies and SGBV.
- He appealed for the support of religious institutions in addressing the social problems.
- Survey on Covid-19 and SGBV indicates that 38 out of 47 counties have reported SGBV cases since mid-March.
- Kenya loses Sh46 billion annually due to SGBV.
- Rift Valley Regional Commissioner warned chiefs and their assistants that they will be held personally liable of child marriages, early pregnancies and FGM.
- Education CS Prof George Magoha urged parents to give more attention to their children who could be seeking it in the wrong places.
- Kuppet asked State to establish at least one borstal institution to deal with child sexual offenders.
- Kewota called for the introduction of sex education in schools, a suggestion the Catholic Church has rejected.
Kenya has recently reported a sudden surge in teen pregnancies and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) with the cases being attributed to Covid-19 lockdown.
So bad is the situation that President Uhuru Kenyatta has directed National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) to probe the vices.
The agency has 30 days beginning July 6, to study causes of rise in the numbers of SGBV cases, early pregnancies among girls aged below 19 and violation of children’s rights.
The President also directed NCRC to prepare an advisory for security agencies on the immediate action to be pursued. It is also expected to initiate immediate prosecution of offenders.
“I am concerned by the increased tensions within our homes. Cases of gender-based violence have increased, mental health issues worsened and instances of teenage pregnancy have also escalated,” noted Mr Kenyatta during his State address on phased reopening of the economy on Monday.
He appealed for the support of religious institutions in addressing the social problems, which he said, threatened the State’s stability.
“If the family is under attack, the State is under attack,” he said.
Recent survey by Healthcare Assistance (HAK) on Covid-19 and SGBV indicates that 38 out of 47 counties have reported SGBV cases since mid-March when Covid-19 was confirmed in the country.
And Nairobi, Kisumu, Kiambu, Homa Bay, Siaya, Nakuru, and Mombasa counties lead in gender related violence cases in the country. In April, for instance, Nairobi recorded 94 GBV cases followed by Kisumu with 58, Kiambu 34, Homa Bay 25, Siaya 23, Nakuru 21 and Mombasa 19.
A 2016 National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) Gender-based Violence in Kenya: The Economic Burden on Survivors report shows that Kenya loses Sh46 billion annually due to SGBV. This translates to about 1.1 per cent of Kenya’s gross domestic product.
Meanwhile, latest figures from District Health Information System shows 164,951 cumulative hospital visits of pregnant girls aged 10 to 19 from January to May this year, a worrying indicator of teen age pregnancies across the 47 counties.
Additionally, data from National Council on Population and Development (NCPD) shows that one in five girls aged between 15 and 19 in Kenya is either pregnant or has given birth.
Teenage pregnancy has long term effects, pushing girls into lifelong extreme poverty as their life choices are limited owing to their failure to complete school.
Further, NCPD shows that maternal death rates for young women ages 15 to 19 are twice as high as for women in their 20s. While, girls of 10 to 14 years are five times more likely to die of maternal causes than women aged 20 to 24.
During closure of a two-day training workshop on Kazi Mtaani for regional and county commissioners in Nairobi, the President said administrators will be answerable for any school-going child defiled under their watch.
“You as the area chief will have to answer where you were when all this was happening. People must be disciplined, how do we allow people to go around impregnating young girls, and we do not say anything? We are going to wait for the DNA and those people will pay,” he said.
Last month, Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Mr George Natembeya warned chiefs and their assistants in the region that they will be held personally liable of child marriages, early pregnancies and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) occurring within their jurisdictions.
“All the chiefs must be alert. If a girl gets pregnant at this time in your area, I will assume that pregnancy belongs to you until that time the baby will be born and a DNA is done. But before that, the chief will be responsible for taking her to the clinic,” Mr Natembeya said.
Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha, while on tour in Kiambu County last weekend, urged parents to give more attention to their children who could be seeking it in the wrong places. He blamed parents for failing in their roles which he noted led to the rise of teenage pregnancies and various other vices.
Last month, he said it is the responsibility of parents and guardians to spend more time with their children as they continue to stay at home.
“This pandemic is going to be here for a while. I want to say without any fear of contradiction that our parents should change their mind-sets. They should love their children, and love is measured by the number of minutes you spend with your child, it is not measured by the amount of money you give to your child,” said Prof Magoha.
Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) on Sunday, asked the government to strengthen child protection measures that will avert the increasing cases on teenage pregnancies.
Secretary General Akelo Misori asked the government to establish at least one borstal institution to deal with child sexual offenders.
“We are calling for the establishment of schools that support teenage mothers’ to continue with education. We encourage cash transfers from the government to poor families to reduce children's sexual exploitation in the society,” said Mr Misori.
To contain teenage pregnancy crisis, Kenya Women Teachers Association (Kewota) has called for the introduction of sex education in schools. Kewota’s Kirinyaga County Director Wilkister Wanjiru, said sex education should be introduced gradually at an early age.
Ms Wanjiru noted that most of the cases of incest and early pregnancies is a result of children trying new things because of lack of guidance.
The Catholic Church, through the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, has however, opposed calls to introduce sex education in schools.
In a statement, Nyahururu Bishop Joseph Mbatia said plans to introduce sex education in schools must be shelved.
“We are totally opposed to those trying to introduce comprehensive sexual education in schools to curb teenage pregnancies. We must protect our children against all forms of exploitation,” the Bishop said.
Last week, details emerged that a nine-year old girl was among the 33 pregnant minors in Gatanga sub-county in Murang’a County. In Kandara Constituency, more than 20 teenagers were reported pregnant last month.
Data released by the county administration, so far, shows 183 registered cases of teenage pregnancies.
A recent survey by the Kenya Health Information System indicated about 4,000 girls aged 19 years and below were reported pregnant in Machakos County between January and May.
The numbers were equally high in other parts of the country. Nakuru recorded 1,748 cases while Kajiado, Garissa and Kericho recorded 1,523, 901 and 1,006 cases respectively.
A report by the National Council on Population and Development showed that two out of five teenagers in Kenya are either young mothers or pregnant.
Since the pandemic was reported in the country in March, 20,828 girls aged between 10 and 14 years have become mothers while among those aged between 15-19 years, 24,106 are either pregnant or mothers already.