Health ministry: Over 9,500 girls defiled, impregnated or infected with STD's last year

Defilement cases have been rising since 2018.

Defilement cases have been rising since 2018.

About 9,500 girls were defiled, impregnated or infected with sexually transmitted diseases last year, data from the Ministry of Health shows.

The girls were aged between 12 and 17.

The figures from the Kenya Health Management Information System are derived from clinic visits, meaning the number could be higher, given that some teenagers do not attend clinics when they are expectant or defiled.

Girls suffer the most from violence, with 9,162 cases, while males recorded about 350 cases, an increase from the previous year’s 8,000 cases for females and 277 for males.

“This age group is increasingly growing vulnerable as there are increased risks of violation, sexual violence, and gender-based violence among adolescents ages 12-17,” said Andrew Mulwa, director of health promotion at the ministry.

Speaking when he launched Sexual and Reproductive Health, a booklet on adolescent growth and development, Dr Mulwa said of the number of girls defiled, only 43 percent presented themselves at a health facility within 72 hours.

Rape or defilement cases should be reported within 72 hours of the attack so that victims can get treatment to prevent pregnancy and HIV (using PEP) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It also helps medics collect evidence to be used against the perpetrators.

The booklet, developed by the National Council for Population and Development, seeks to empower adolescents to understand their bodies and effectively manage issues related to their growth and development.

The report comes as teenage pregnancies declined from 23 percent in 2020 to 21 percent in 2021. Two of every 10 teenage girls are still getting pregnant while in school.

“Cases of childhood pregnancy are related to poor maternal outcomes. The recorded pregnancies among adolescents aged 10-19 years were 21 percent in 2021,” the report says.

In 2021, 104 deaths were recorded among girls aged 10-19s due to pregnancy-related issues, an increase from 31 deaths in 2020. These numbers were captured in public hospitals. Those who gave birth at home were not part of the report.

Teenagers below 19 years contributed 45 percent of maternal mortality in Kenya.

“The number could be higher than this, considering that some are giving birth at home,” said Dr Mulwa.

A draft of the guidebook (physical and digital copies) was presented in eight counties, including Nairobi, Kajiado, Kiambu, Muranga, Kisii, Kisumu, Bungoma, and Kilifi. Its 16 chapters include information on personal hygiene and sanitation and healthy relationships and communication.

Another report, released last month by the Performance Monitoring and Action (PMA), an entity in the Ministry of Health, revealed that only one in 10 women who were violated sought help, with only 12 percent reporting to police/lawyers/doctors.

The report established that of the 6,520 women interviewed, the majority or 50 percent, reported attacks to their own family members and 38 percent to their in-laws.

“Gender-based violence remains a challenge, with 23 percent reporting violence in the last 12 months,” says Prof Peter Gichangi, principal investigator of the survey.

Emotional violence perpetrated by an intimate partner was the main leading type of violence at 86 percent, followed by pressure to have sex (30 percent), physical violence (29 percent), physically forced to have sex (15 percent) and murder threats (11 percent).

“Advocacy programmes are needed to sensitise both women and men, with the aim of reducing violence and providing non-stigmatising services, which will require continual training of health care workers,” Prof Gichangi said.

Dr Ruth Masha, CEO of the National Aids Control Council, said that teenage girls in Kenya face triple threats of violation, pregnancy and being infected with HIV.

The same age group recorded 5,492 new HIV infections and 1,473 HIV-related deaths between January and October 2021, the data shows.

“Some of them are pregnant and at the same time, they are HIV-positive, so they start taking drugs for life. The counselling is traumatising…,” she said.

The Council has started an advocacy programme to reduce the threats to teenage girls.

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