Legal age of consent for sex is 18 years, maintains State

Thursday, March 18th, 2021 00:00 |
Labour CS Simon Chelugui with Dr Joyce Mwikali Mutinda, chairperson of National Gender and Equality Commission during the launch of the report on minimum age of consent for sex in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/John Ochieng

Irene Githinji @gitshee

The government reiterated yesterday  that the minimum legal age of consent for sex is 18 years and dismissed calls to have it lowered.

 Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui yesterday said the government cannot allow for lowering of the age because it will not be in the best interest of children and may lead to sexual exploitation.

“The age of consent for sex for both boys and girls cannot be lowered to anything less than 18 years and we are retaining that position to protect the child,” said the CS.

“Lowering the age of consent for sex is not in the best interest of our children, as it may lead to an increase in sexual exploitation whose consequences includes teenage pregnancy, which robs girls of their childhood, education and future.

These pregnancies tend to be as a result of having fewer choices in life,” added the CS.

Sexual exploitation

Chelugui spoke in Nairobi during the launch of a multi-sectoral report dubbed ‘Minimum Age of Consent for Sex: Addressing the Dilemma’, which was spearheaded by National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC).

He said that measures should be put in place to mitigate predicaments where young boys as opposed to girls are imprisoned for engaging in sexual activities. 

The CS stated that there should clear regulations and establishment of a comprehensive child rehabilitation programmes for any children in conflict with the law.

In the long term, the government will develop and implement programmes that address sexual and reproductive health of children.

He said the Violence Against Children (VAC) Survey 2019 report launched last July indicated that sexual violence was experienced by 15.6 per cent of females and 6.4 per cent of males before age 18. 

Among females, 6.8 per cent experienced unwanted sexual touching, 7.5 per cent experienced unwanted attempted sex, 4.3 per cent experienced pressured sex, while another 4.3 per cent experienced physically forced sex in childhood.

He said the study found that sexual exploitation of children is common in major tourist destinations such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Kakamega, Nakuru as well as in other major towns.

The CS said that one of the recommendations the age consent report is fast tracking enactment of the Children Bill, 2020.

“I am glad to inform you that the Children Bill, 2020 was approved by the Cabinet on February 25 and the Ministry is now working towards its presentation to the National Assembly for enactment. Section 4. (1) of the Bill state that the State shall take measures to progressively achieve the full realisation of the rights of the child,” said Chelugui.

Erode gains

In March 2019, the Nairobi Court of Appeal called for a serious re-examination and interrogation of the Sexual Offences Act, No. 3 of 2006, with a view to re-consideration of the age of consent for sex.

It is against this backdrop that NGEC organised a multi-sectoral fora to discuss various proposals to address the shortcomings in the Sexual Offenses Act (2016) as it relates to consensual sex among and with persons below age 18.

NGEC and Plan International organised forums for children from Kilifi, Mombasa and Nairobi to obtain the voices of children.

According to the report, there lacks enough evidence of the benefits of lowering the age of consent for sex.

“As discussions on this matter proceed, it should not be lost to all that a reduction in the age of consent for sex may regress the gains made by the country on gender equality and children’s’ rights through a decision that is not very well thought out,” says the report.

The report also recommends that family lays greater emphasis on value based parenting, even as the CS said that parents must rise to take their space in mentorship.

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