Proposal to lower age of consent unfortunate

If Kenya was a novel, it would be a bad romance; scandal, drama, intrigue and dysfunction. Why lie about it when the relationship we have with our government is classically abusive? Why are we still together?

Why do we put up with a guy who steals from us, talks down at us, compares us to other chicks, cheats on us with women who have more money and then refuses to commit? Surely, what is stopping us from kicking Kenya Inc. to the kerb? It’s no secret that ever since this dude started wearing Jubilee colours; he is yet to keep a promise.

In 2013, Jubilee, JP, JP-ODM, or whatever it goes by nowadays, “proposed something of a revolution”. Their words, not mine. Within the parameters of that revolution, they promised a number of things.

The first was food and clean water for every Kenyan; then came quality education for every child. After that was good old wealth creation. And then of course there was healthcare, women empowerment, security, foreign relations and trade.

In each and every one of these sectors the Jubilee administration has performed below poorly. It has been consistent in its inability to plan for famine and drought, dropped the ball with its proposed change of curriculum, robbed the taxpayer blind, desecrated the public healthcare system, trashed the Two-thirds Gender principle, fumbled its way through terror attacks, became known as a non-diplomatic unilateral bully and sold Kenya’s soul to China.

Sugar imports

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It is safe to say that the first Jubilee ‘revolution’ cannibalised its children. Then came 2017 and its general selection. This time around the revolutionaries packaged their manifesto as the “big four” promising food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare.

This Big-Four agenda continues to leak from the mouths of the ruling elite while Kenyans in 13 counties are starving, Kibera families are displaced to pave way for overpriced infrastructure; cane farmers in Busia are ripped off by Ugandan sugar imports and new mothers are detained in Nairobi hospitals because they cannot afford to pay for ‘free’ maternity services.What a joke this bad-boy state has turned out to be!

He says he loves us, but you will never find his money where his mouth is. How else do you explain a legislative bill that proposes to prohibit small-holder farmers from selling milk to their neighbours?

Or a law that will criminalise the use of organic manure? What kind of mindless, colonial hangers-on would come up with these retrogressive, oppressive regulations? Oh, yes, that’s right, the corporatist and money-hungry clowns at the highest echelons of government who can only read dollar signs.

Most teens

And it doesn’t stop with the gross inefficiencies of the central and local governments. Parliament and the Judiciary are just as insensitive in their attitude towards service delivery.

Take for example the age-of-consent debate. Instead of building a body of case law - or even passing an Act - that protects boys who have sex with girls their age, some Kenyan judges want to lower the age of consent from 18 to 16. This would mean that men of any age could legally have sex with girl-children.

Worst case scenario, and in the event that this proposal becomes law, much older men, with much more power than 16-year-old girls, could be empowered ‘by law’ to defile girl-children without much threat of prosecution. Lowering the age of consent is the laziest and I would argue, the most harmful way to prohibit teenagers from having sex with teenagers.

As a mother of a girl-child I cannot even begin to wrap my mind around this logic. No one wants to think of their child having sex, but when adolescence hits, most teens will dip their feet in the pond. The law as it stands is discriminatory against boys because they face a greater risk of being charged with defiling a minor when they have ‘consensual’ sex with girls of similar age.

It is in response to this dilemma that judges are proposing lowering the age of consent – it is their ill-considered attempt to protect boys from unfair prosecution. And while I commend them for trying, this is not the way.

It can’t be that the only way to protect girls is to put boys in jail, and the only way to protect boys is to put girls at risk. Not when we’re counting on our youthful population to dig us out of the hole that our leadership has dug us into. We need better thinking all round if this bad romance is to have a happy ending.

Ms Masiga is Peace and Security editor, The Conversation Africa

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