Debate as court proposes sex consent age lowered to 16 years
An intense debate has emerged in the country after three Court of Appeal judges proposed an amendment to the Sexual Offences Act to have the age of consent lowered from 18 to 16 years.
Many parents and teachers have expressed apprehension over this, saying this could expose small girls to the difficulties associated with pregnancies, motherhood and early marriage.
This comes after a man who was sentenced to 15 years for impregnating a 15-year-old girl found renewed hope when the Appellate Court judges overturned the ruling five years into his sentence and ordered his release.
The judges; Daniel Musinga, Roselyn Nambuye and Patrick Kiage, questioned the penal provisions in the Sexual Offences Act No.3 of 2006.
According to the judgment delivered on March 22, 2019, many other jurisdictions criminalise only sexual conduct with children of a younger age than 16 years.
They further compared the reasoning applied when the English House of Lords in the UK heard the case of a woman against a doctor who offered contraceptives to five 15-year- old girls without parental consent.
It was said that the young ones might not have attained the age of maturity but they may well have reached the age of discretion to make intelligent and informed decisions about their lives and their bodies.
Despite that, a section of Kenyans are not taking that matter lightly.
“Why do we want to force children to become adults, when they are not? I do not see the motivation of that proposal,” said Alex Rithi a Nairobi resident.
Teachers, who also spend a lot of the time with the young girls say such a proposal will curtail the right to education.
John Chigiti, a children’s advocate, maintains that such a proposal need to have understood the background as to why the initial age was put at 18 years.
“What sex will do is expose these kids to abortion, change them from the classroom and put them in maternity wards and this will interfere with the reproductive health of that child. If we reduce to 16 years we will reduce it to 15 years the other year and 12 years the other year,” said Chigiti.
While many doubt the viability of such a proposal, the discussion has put on the spot the responsibility of the society in safeguarding the rights of children.
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