Kenya:9,484 children were defiled last year— Health ministry
- In Kenya, defilement of a child between 12 to 15 years carries a sentence of 20 years imprisonment.
- Defilement of 16- 18-year-olds carries a prison sentence of 15 years.
At least 9,484 children were defiled last year, with many infected with sexually-transmitted diseases including HIV, the Ministry of Health has said.
The children were aged 12 to 17 years, according to data entered in the Kenya Health Management Information System, which captures visits to all public health facilities.
“Of this, only 43 per cent presented themselves at a health facility within 72 hours,” Andrew Mulwa, director of health promotion at the ministry said.
Sexual abuse cases should be reported within 72 hours for the victim to receive medicines to prevent pregnancies and prevent infection of HIV/AIDS or STIs. It also helps medics collect evidence to be used against the perpetrators.
Dr Mulwa spoke in Nairobi on Wednesday where he launched the sexual and reproductive health guide developed by the National Council for Population and Development.
In Kenya, defilement of a child between 12 to 15 years carries a sentence of 20 years imprisonment while defilement of 16- 18-year-olds carries a prison sentence of 15 years.
“This age group is increasingly growing vulnerable as there are increased risks of violation, sexual violence and Gender-Based Violence,” Dr Mulwa said.
The cases of child sexual abuse could be higher because the KHIS only captures those who receive medical care.
According to the NCPD, the number of teenage girls getting pregnant dropped significantly last year.
The council data showed last year 20.9 per cent of all pregnant women were adolescents aged 10-19 years, compared to 22.6 per cent in 2020 and 28 per cent in 2019.
However, the share of girls dying due to pregnancy-related complications rose last year compared to 2020 when 31 deaths were recorded.
“Tragically, 104 deaths were recorded among girls aged 10–19 years due to pregnancy-related issues in 2021,” Dr Mulwa said.
Adolescents and young people make up over 25 per cent of Kenya’s population, according to the 2019 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics census.
In 2016, about 21.3 per cent of all pregnant women were aged 10 to 19, and this jumped to 27.8 per cent in 2017, and 29.8 in 2018.
According to the National Aids Control Council, the national HIV prevalence among young people aged 15-24 years remains high at about two per cent.
Dr Mulwa also read a speech by Health CS Mutahi Kagwe.
“We all have a responsibility to ensure the vices and contributing factors of new HIV Infections, teenage pregnancies, and gender-based violence are contained. And one way of doing this is following this guide properly,” Kagwe said.
He said although adolescence is considered a period when an individual should enjoy a healthy life, many teenagers die prematurely or suffer long-term health complications as a result of preventable or treatable causes, such as teenage pregnancies and HIV/AIDS.
The latest pregnancy numbers are consistent with a review of the Kenya Health Information Management System, made last year, showing teen pregnancies are at the lowest since 2015.
This analysis last year discounted some reports, wrongly attributed to the KHIS, which claimed there was a 40 per cent rise in teen pregnancies during the Covid-19-related school closure in 2020.
The highest increase in teen pregnancies in 2020 was in July, when teens constituted 24 per cent of all clients on first-time antenatal visits.
But that was still lower than 29 per cent in July 2019 and 30.6 per cent in July 2018. In 2019 the share of teen pregnancies remained over 29 per cent throughout, and only dipped to 25.5 per cent in October before rising again.