The State Department of Gender Affairs Principal Secretary (PS), Safina Kwekwe has opposed the Sexual Offences Act amendment that seeks to reduce the age of consent from 18 to 16 years, saying that it is not in the best interests of children.
Three Court of Appeal Judges, Roselyn Nambuye, Daniel Musinga and Patrick Kiage while reversing a 15-year-sentence of a man who impregnated a 17-year-old girl, ruled that it was high time the country considered a revision of the Sexual Offences Act.
“Our prisons are teaming with young men serving lengthy sentences for having had sexual intercourse with adolescent girls whose consent has been held to be immaterial because they were under 18 years,” the judges had ruled.
Kwekwe, said that lowering the age of consent does not carry the best interest for the children in the country and its consequences are unimaginable.
“In 2017 alone, over 378 young girls of age 10-19 years presented themselves in hospitals for maternity services as
mothers,” she said.
The PS said lowering age of consent will protect the sexual predators who are currently looking for ways to hide from the long arm of the law and argued that by lowering the age of consent, the action will give predators a free pass to engage sexually with young girls.
“At the moment we are at 90 per cent transition for girls and fighting early marriages but if we lower the age to 16 it means our girls will lose two years of their education,” she added.
Kwekwe further stated that there are very high cases of violence between adults in relationship and if the consent
amendment is passed it means that we will be putting 16 year olds in a position to face these same violence risks.
During a multi-sectoral forum to discuss the proposed age of consent for sex, the National Gender and Equality
Commission Chairperson, Dr. Joyce Mutinda said that the country should consider other options to face the sexual offences other than lowering the age of consent.
“Survey in 2016-2017 shows that most early pregnancies are caused by predators who are adults and family members,” she said.
Mutinda also stated that emerging statistics show that men or boys are also becoming targets of sexual predators
and the commission’s aim is to protect both the boy child and the girl child of this country.
“We at the commission strongly discourage the out of courts negotiation when it comes to sexual offences,” she added.
The average global sexual consent age is 16 years. The highest age of consent in the world is 21 in Bahrain. The second- highest age of consent is 20 in South Korea, while the majority of other countries have an age of consent between 16 and 18.
The lowest age of consent in the world is 11, in Nigeria. The age of consent is 12 in the Philippines, Mexico, and Angola, and 13, 14, 15 in Burkina Faso, Comoros, Niger, Japan, Canada, and Sweden respectively.
In Kenya however, it is criminal for anybody to have sex with a person under 18 years.
Should the proposed amendment go through, it will be legal for 16-year-olds to engage in sex and even get married.
By Yvonne Kadzo/Alice Gworo