This year 13,624 teenage girls got pregnant in Kilifi, according to the county Children’s Affairs department.
At least 100 of them are sitting the KCSE examination. It is estimated that hundreds of pregnant girls aged 15 to 19 are sitting the exam in various parts of Kenya. Kitui has 72, while Bomet has 20, to name but two.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), between June 2016 and July 2017, 378,397 girls aged between 10 and 19 got pregnant in Kenya. The problem of teenage pregnancies is real and prevalent. The question in every Kenyan’s mind is: Why so many teen pregnancies? Who is to blame?
In Kilifi, and various parts of the Coast as well as Kenya, teen pregnancies have become the norm. Young people are engaging in sexual activities at an early age and sex is treated casually. Schools, homes, clubs and even the bushes have now become areas of copulation. While all this is happening, society has chosen to turn a blind eye. The results of which are the high number of teen pregnancies.
However, in this whole debate lies the genuine concern that it is the girl child who is burdened with the additional responsibility of rearing a child, even when she is already disadvantaged in a patriarchal society.
In Kilifi, for example, while generally teenage sexual activities are discouraged, certain local practices encourage exposure to elements that lead to sexual activities.
Events such as disco matangas and disco vumbis contribute to a large number of unsupervised children engaging in early unprotected sex and use of illicit liquor and drugs such as marijuana. The low use of contraceptives and/or unmet needs for contraceptives has exacerbated the problem.
Mid-this year, Haki Africa held forums across Kilifi to establish the causes of teen pregnancies. Communities blamed boda boda operators, who lure young girls with offers of free rides to and from school. Other causes of teen pregnancies are lack of awareness on reproductive health and poverty.
So who is to blame? First and foremost, it is those men and boys responsible for the pregnancies. Whether it’s teachers in schools, boyfriends in the community or even relatives, they must face the full wrath of the law. Any individual who sleeps with a girl under 18 years is guilty of defilement. The law must take its own course and the culprits arrested forthwith.
Second, it must be understood that in any given society, the government has a duty and obligation to safeguard the interests of its people, especially those vulnerable and/or marginalised such as teenage girls. Under human rights law, the state has the primary responsibility of ensuring individuals and communities collectively are safeguarded from abuse and human rights violations. Therefore, the government must do more to protect young girls from preying eyes.
Third, after government, parents have an obligation under the 2010 Constitution to protect their children. Article 53 ( 1 ) (e) provides that “every child has the right to parental care and protection.” Parents are to blame for absconding their duty to protect their children.
Fourth, society must be equally condemned for allowing the situation to deteriorate to this level. Elders and women who are the custodians of morality have fallen asleep and allowed society to stoop this low. We must wake up and teach our people how to be civil and protect our young girls.
Last, but not least, it will be wrong not to place any blame on the girls themselves. As the loins of our nation, girls must not allow themselves to be duped into unwanted pregnancies. They must think of their future and plan well for a better tomorrow.