Today in Kenya there’s an ongoing debate on the proposal by three Court of Appeal judges about lowering the age of sex consent from the current 18 to 16.
The judges; Roselyn Nambuye, Daniel Musinga, and Patrick Kiage want an amendment made to the Sexual Offences Act to lower the age for sexual consent.
This comes after the three judges overturned a ruling where a man was sentenced to 15 years for impregnating a 15-year-old girl, five years into his jail term and ordered his release. In their ruling, the judges have questioned the penal provisions in the Sexual Offences Act No.3 of 2006.
In their March 22nd, 2019 judgment, the three cite many other jurisdictions that criminalize only sexual conduct with children below 16 years.
They also referenced their ruling to the reasoning applied when the House of Lords in the United Kingdom heard the case of a woman against a doctor who offered contraceptives to five 15-year-old girls without their parents’ consent.
So I looked around the world for the consent age in different countries, and I was shocked to find a country with consent age as low as 11. Here is a list from the lowest to the highest which as per now stands at 21:
- 11 — Nigeria
- 12 — Philippines, and Angola
- 13 — Burkina Faso, Comoros, Niger, and Japan
- 14 — Albania, Austria, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Chad, China, Colombia, DRC, Ecuador, Estonia, Germany, Myanmar, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Serbia, Italy
- 15 — Uruguay, Thailand, Syria, Sweden, Slovak Republic, Solomon Islands, Slovenia, Romania, Poland, North Korea, Laos, Monaco, Costa Rica, Cambodia,
- 16 — Algeria, Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Botswana, Cameroon, Canada, Cuba, Dominica, Fiji, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mauritania, Moldova, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Norway, Palau, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Togo, Tonga, Ukraine, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe,
- 17– Cyprus, Ireland, Mexico, Nauru,
- 18 — Many countries, Only 11 US States; California, New York, Florida, Oregon, Utah, Iowa, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Vermont, and Delaware
- 20 — South Korea
- 21 — Bahrain (highest)
One thing for sure is that the boychild is suffering. Our prisons today are filled with young men jailed for defilement, and in some of these cases it was willing girls. These laws most of the times only favor the girlchild. I happened to ask my brother in-law on his opinion on the consent age issue and he agrees with the courts proposal.
“Why should a 17-year-old boy be jailed for allegedly defiling a 15 or 16-year-old? At the end of the day both of them are underage, are children according to our constitution.”
Their proposal has however, been dismissed by parents and children’s rights groups, who argue that lowering the age of sexual consent would expose young girls to the difficulties associated with early pregnancies, motherhood, and early marriage.
Most parents, especially mothers, according to them, a 16-year-old is still a child who can’t be trusted to make informed decision. And the fact that most of these girls can’t show up in court to say they were willing in the defense of the accused boychild, just shows they are not ready to take responsibility. Hence can’t be trusted to consent to sexual relationships.
Maybe those disagreeing should first look at the list I’ve compiled, they will come to learn that Kenya won’t be the first, and certainly not the only African country since we already have countries like; Algeria, Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo, Zambia, and even Zimbabwe.
The Court of Appeal is doing the right thing because at the end of the day we all agree that we have a problem as a society, and we need to find a long-lasting solution. Today, children as early as age 9 are already engaging in sexual activities, and by 16 are already active, and know exactly what they’re doing, and the repercussion of their actions.