Kenyans say no to lowering age of sexual consent
: Majority of Kenyans are opposed to the lowering of the age of sexual consent from 18 to 16 years.
A survey conducted by Ipsos in April shows many Kenyans cite immaturity of children as the main reason for opposing the lowering of the age of sexual consent.
In March, the Court of Appeal proposed a law change to lower the age of consent to 16 years.
Three judges, Roselyn Nambuye, Daniel Musinga, and Patrick Kiage, ruled that time was ripe for the country to consider changing the Sexual Offences Act, citing lengthy jail terms imposed on young men convicted of defilement.
They made the observation in a case where they reversed a 15-year sentence slapped on a man who had impregnated a 17-year-old girl.
The Ipsos survey conducted over the phone between April 15 and 18 shows over 80 per cent objecting lowering of the age.
Those opposed raised issues on the level maturity of children at that age, to make such a decision, as the major concern.
In addition, such a move was cited as likely to cause an increase in school drop outs and worsen moral decay. According to the survey findings, the request to lowering of the age of sexual consent is opposed uniformly across all the regions of the country.
Minority at 3 per cent agreed that lowering the age would expose them to abuse while 8 per cent think that lowering the sexual consent age will increase the rate of teenage pregnancy, health risk, and abortion.
About 67 per cent of Kenyans has heard about the recent request by one of the judges to lower the age of sexual consent, from 18 years to 16 years. Fewer numbers of people have heard about this request in North Eastern regions, compared to the other regions.
Interestingly, only 15 per cent of them think that the age of sexual consent should be lowered from 18 years to 16 years. Western and North Eastern regions had the highest number of Kenyans who support the lowering of the age of sexual consent (20 per cent).
According to the judges Roselyn Nambuye, Daniel Musinga, and Patrick Kiage, the country should discuss challenges of maturing children, morality, autonomy, protection of children and the need for proportionality in punishing sex pests.
They said the debate on lowering age of sexual consent was long overdue as men were languishing in jail for sleeping with teens “who were willing to be and appeared to be adults”.
The judges referred to the sentences as an unfolding tragedy.
“Our prisons are teeming with young men serving lengthy sentences for having had sexual intercourse with adolescent girls whose consent has been held to be immaterial because they were under 18 years,” the judges ruled.
According to the judges, it is unrealistic to assume that teenagers and maturing adults do not engage in sex.
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