In one of the villages in my county of birth, a case is being discussed of a 15-year-old girl who recently delivered a baby. She was in school and, expectedly, dropped out.
There’s no possibility of her going back to class, unless of course, through intervention from authorities.
In the village, the discussion is being conducted under hushed tones. Many villagers seem unable to publicly give their opinion because of the status of the man responsible for the pregnancy and have chosen either to whisper their concerns or shut up and mind their business.
But the child, who now has to take care of the baby, cannot afford the luxury of looking the other way. She only has her single mother, who incidentally has about 10 other children under her care, to fall back to.
But there is some consolation, or so it seems, to the less informed villagers. The man involved has agreed to support the girl and her baby. In the village, it is thought to be an act of magnanimity for the man, a community leader, to have accepted responsibility and committed to offer support. The man, it is whispered, agreed to support the child after the intervention of elders and other leaders, including the chief.
The elders were of the view that it was not right for the young mother to single-handedly raise the baby when the man, who is married with older children, had the resources to help. And with that, the discussion was closed.
And that is the tragedy of our society’s attitude to children, particularly girls.
Here is a man who, as a leader in society, has abused his position and made a child pregnant. The community, instead of condemning him and make him pay for the grave error of judgment, chooses to pamper him and beg for his support after ruining a child’s life.
None of the elders and administrators talks about the child’s vulnerability to the predator despite her being a schoolgirl.
In villages across the country, including urban areas, people generally behave as if this is just one of the cases of two adults having a baby who now requires support from both parents. It is, in the minds of the moral courts and judges in the village, a case of child support for a couple that can live together as man and wife for “unavoidable reasons”.
In other communities and different circumstances, such girls are married off to the men, usually older by decades. The issue of child abuse is buried by a conniving society and defilement continues unabated. What a shame!
That a primary, or even secondary school girl, is preyed upon and impregnated and adults in such a community see no problem with that; it’s unfortunate. In that village, and many others across the country, the fact that the child did not shout “rape” is taken to mean she consented.
This is absurd. There is a reason why framers of the Constitution put in the law an article about age. As it is, any sex between an adult and a person under the age of 18 is defilement and should be treated as such. It does not matter the size or behaviour of the child before, during or after the act. It is predatory and should be punished.
Which brings me to the debate on what should be the age of consent.
There has been a deliberate push by a section of Kenyans, including some in Parliament and the Judiciary, to reduce the age of consent from 18 to 16. How this is supposed to make the world a better place for humanity defeats me, but everyone has a right to their opinion. Mine is that the law, in Article 53 of the Constitution, is good enough and anyone who craves intimacy with a child is a pervert, simple and clear.
The Article provides that every child, and anyone below the age of 18 is a child, should be protected from abuse, neglect and any form of violence and inhuman treatment. I am of the view that the law as currently composed is sufficient and necessary for the protection and preservation of a sane and safe humanity.
I agree with those who, like the Community Advocacy and Awareness (CRAWN) Trust in their policy brief titled a Campaign Against Lowering of the Age of Sexual Consent from 18 years to 16 years, hold that “Opening this statute for the reduction of the age of consent without taking into consideration the best interest of the child is a flagrant illegality and unconstitutional conduct and will be a contradiction of the protections guaranteed to children”
If we can’t protect them at 17, we can’t protect them at seven.
Ms Rugene is a Consulting Editor [email protected] @nrugene