Kenyan women born in the 1990s are facing their first sexual abuse earlier in life than past generations.
A new study among 18,528 women in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Cote d’Ivoire shows many facing sexual violence before they are 10 years old.
“There are generational shifts in timing of first forced sexual act with girls born in the 1990s becoming victims at earlier ages than those born in the 1960s and 1970s,” says the study published last month in the journal, Scientific African.
Nearly two per cent of Kenya women, the study reports, had first forced sexual act before age 10 compared with 1.6 per cent in Zimbabwe and 1.1 per cent in Cote d’Ivoire.
Nearly 4.5 per cent of women aged 15–19 years in Kenya had experienced forced sexual act before age 10 compared with 0.7 per cent among those aged 25–34 years and two per cent among those aged 35–49 years.
Also, 4.5 per cent, 3.3 per cent and 1.9 per cent of never-in-union women in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Cote d’Ivoire respectively had experienced forced sexual act before attaining age 10 years. In general, 13 per cent of women in Kenya have ever experienced forced sex in their lifetime, concludes the study.
“This study provides hard evidence of increasing defilement of minors in society,” says Janette Mweni, a lobbyist for the rights of girls.
The study by the University of Ibadan Nigeria had analysed data from current Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) from the three countries.
DHS are standard and highly detailed surveys carried out in developing countries worldwide to monitor and evaluate national population and health statuses.
The three countries were selected for the study to represent Western, Eastern and Southern Africa Sub-Saharan region and reflect the cultural differences across the area.
“It is worrying that instead of sex violence against women decreasing as our society modernises, we seem to be retrogressing,” says Dr Sammy Baya, an expert in sexuality and sex education.
The report shows among the perpetrators to be siblings, relatives, strangers and some agemates of the violated girls.
The study is asking parents and guardians to ensure their girl child is protected right from an early age from possible perpetrators of sexual violence.
“This should be coupled with a strong law as well as strict enforcement of such laws against forced sexual acts,” says the study.
“Anybody who sees a woman in a 10-year old child and has sex with them does not deserve to be called a man. Apart from being jailed for life, such a person should also be castrated,” said Senator Moses Wetang’ula of Bungoma.
Wetang’ula and the Senate were discussing reports of rampant pupils’ pregnancies during last year’s national exams. Senators were in agreement that there is a need for the current Sexual Offenses Act to be reviewed.
But the top echelon of Kenya’s Judiciary has described the same Sexual Offences Act as biased against the boy child, who in many cases is the accused perpetrator.
Last month the Court of Appeal free d a man who had been jailed when 17 years old for defiling a teenager; after the court found that the act had been consensual.