Better laws, not noise, will end rape and teenage pregnancies

Willful ignorance. Psychologists and lawyers say it is decision in bad faith one makes to avoid having information about something to avoid making further decisions that such information might prompt.

Considering how Kenyans react to national tragedies and calamities, it is safe to conclude that we cherish our deliberate ignorance.

Tragedies recur, and each time, we make fresh noises just as we did recently when it was reported that thousands of teenagers were pregnant. Whether those figures are real, and whatever the motive of the entity that released them, anyone who does not see teenage pregnancies as a problem is simply living in denial.

Whenever this tragedy of teenage pregnancies is highlighted, we act with alacrity, shout ourselves hoarse online and offline and don’t ask the parental authority about provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services to adolescents.

Professionals from non-State bodies in collaboration with ministries of Education and Health, have always mooted programmes to empower children with sex-related information so they can be safe in and out of school.

But their recommendations gather dust in government offices or implementation of some were stopped by, well, influential parents in cahoots with State officials who impose their personal values of morality in public offices.

Was Comprehensive Life Skills and Sexuality Education programme implemented? What happened to the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy and the first Adolescent and Reproductive Health and Development Policy of 2003?

Do we know how well Health ministry’s Division of Family Health or Reproductive and Maternal Health Services Unit work, their challenges or why their services and spaces are not adolescent-friendly?

Some questions like these need answers, and Kenya’s pervicacious religious organisations must reveal their input in this mess of disempowered parents and their adolescent children who do not understand their bodies and lack skills to make informed sex-related decisions when they are with their peers.

For long, Kenya’s clergy have blocked provision of sex education and subsequent empowerment of both parents and adolescents because they say, it is immoral, yet their bookshops have books with worse content than what they burned in the 90s.

Some well-heeled families are complicit in these despicable disempowerment shenanigans.

When professionals work on sex-education strategies, they frustrate their efforts and lobby their golfing and prayer partners to stand in the way. Like religious organisations, they do not offer alternative content even for the home environment. Yeah, no sex education in school and at home too.

Sexual rights

The irresponsible men who see vulnerable teenagers as sexual partners grow up in this toxic environment where age and sexual rights are not respected. How does a grown man experience tumescence over a preteen or a teen? While Kenyans want the irresponsible men punished, many have little faith in the system. They blame the constabulary, the judicature, the legal system, skewed laws and conclude that their efforts will be in vain; so they resort to shouting at everyone.

In Kenya’s cyberspace, where logic dies in daylight, people fall into two distinct groupings – antagonists, and that rhymes with chauvinists, and another one calling themselves feminists – who think with their fingers, insult each other and log off, happy that they have contributed in the fight against rape culture and rapists.

Labelling people feminists because they decry teen pregnancies or decrying teen pregnancies because you say you are a feminist, is giving feminism a bad name. One just needs to be a human being to condemn people and acts that hurt teenagers and compromise their health.

The legal system is biased, broken and does not favour underage victims. They scream, but the perpetrators have to be punished within the provisions of the law. There is the Sexual Offences Act, one of the most progressive and comprehensive pieces of legislation Kenya ever passed, but have they ever found out which of its aspects have never been implemented or are never enforced, and why?

They want the media to use certain terms or to stop using others, but aren’t those words in Kenya’s statute books? Have they pushed elected or nominated representatives to ensure the changes are effected or better policies and laws are formulated? Nope.

Ideally, the system does not start breaking at the police stations or at the courts; it starts breaking in us, with us and in our homes.

We don’t want to act, so, will we happily tell our children that the system and laws which protect them are non-existent or that we fought and ensured that the system works and such laws were instituted? Are we happy seeing them grow up knowing the system is flawed so they can violate their peers and the culture of perversion continues?

-The writer is an editor with The Standard