Teenage pregnancy monster has lived among us, must be slayed

The national chair of Children's Government, Raqaya Omar, addressing journalists in Mombasa after marking the Day of the African Child on June 15,2020. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Many factors contribute to this menace, such as rape, defilement, poverty, early marriage, peer influence, drug abuse and or living with old grandparents.
  • Many girls are defiled in the pretext of providing necessities like sanitary towels and gifts such as clothes, which most of them from poor background lack.

Kenya celebrated the Day of the African Child on June 16 with an increasing burden of teenage pregnancy which has gone unabated for many years. A day hardly passes without an underage girl being put in the family way.

A recent report containing the worrying revelation of how deeply the menace is rooted should help to jolt us into action. Data collected using the national health information system show, for instance, that more than 4,000 teenage girls became pregnant over the past four months in Machakos County alone.

About 200 of the girls are aged 14 while, on average, about 20 became pregnant daily, Machakos County children’s officer Salome Muthama reported on the international day.

If the report, compiled by Kenya National Council for Population and Development, is anything to go by, then the upward trajectory of the trend should worry us to the core.

The report shows that nearly 380,000 teenagers became mothers at the end of last year. Further, one in five girls aged 15-19 got pregnant. Nairobi County took the lead with 2,432 cases, followed by Nakuru  (1,748) and Kajiado (1,523).

SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT

In 2006, parliamentarians, mainly female MPs, enacted the Sexual Offences Act, inserting new definitions and prescribing harsh penalties for offenders.

They went ahead to amend the Penal Code to include among sexual assault indecent acts committed by a family member, defilement, gang rape, sex tourism, child prostitution and pornography. However, strict implementation of the law is lacking as many offenders go scot-free.

What is even more disturbing is the fact that only a few cases of rape and defilement are reported since majority stem from known people and acquaintances of the parents of the victim, such as uncles, domestic employees, siblings and parents.

Many factors contribute to this menace, such as rape, defilement, poverty, early marriage, peer influence, drug abuse and or living with old grandparents. Many girls are defiled in the pretext of providing necessities like sanitary towels and gifts such as clothes, which most of them from poor background lack. This has led to many falling prey to predators, who take advantage of their innocence.

Drug abuse is another catalyst. Many girls who abuse drugs have been taken advantage of by men. This does not only lead to pregnancy but is also a cause of the spread of HIV/Aids. It is heartrending that even a 10-year-old girl can become pregnant.

Many people have abdicated their parenting roles and delegated it to teachers, the clergy and anyone who cares to offer counselling to the girls. Parents must live up to their duty to protect, guard, guide and be a role model to their children; this cannot be abdicated and delegated to a teacher.

We must sit down our children and talk to them about sex education. We must tell them, and without sugarcoating, about the numerous consequences of early pregnancy.

James Onyango, teacher, Siaya