Kenya: ‘Half’ society or No society?

If there’s any debate that is not ending anytime soon, it is the plan to provide condoms to school going children. The debate that was thought to have died a natural death after the forced exit of the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014, resurfaced with a bang after the president called upon the ministries of health and education to ensure that the issue of the adolescent HIV/AIDS is dealt with once and for all. The president, speaking during the global launch of the ALL IN Campaign, came face to face with the gripping reality of high rates of infections among the young people. The story of Elijah, Lucy among other young people who came out to share their heart wrenching stories showed just how much as a nation we have let our young people down.

Kenyans on social media in their ever ingenious nature could not just let this opportunity go by unutilized. They made memes, witty remarks and crowned it with the hashtag #CondomsforKids. Following the conversation, it was clear that the vast majority of Kenyans felt provision of condoms to children was a justification that our society had failed. From the conversation one would assume that Kenya is a pious society where young people wait until marriage before tasting of the forbidden fruits. One would then wonder where studies such as the Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey and National HIV estimates draw their data from. Which Kenyans do they say start being sexually active at ten years if most people do not see the need of providing condoms to children of that age? Why is it even an issue if adolescents are not engaging in sex and getting infected with HIV?

During the launch of the ALL IN Campaign, one young lady living with HIV/AIDS posed a question to the audience. What if she was your daughter? Would you have rather she perished under the dark heavy blanket of ignorance or would you rather she get the correct information that is age appropriate on her sexuality?

Whereas there is no simple answer to this debate, the truth is at one moment well have to make a choice. A choice between informed healthy choices and a choice to bury our hard in the sand and hope the dangers of our time will at one time get bored and move to another planet.

But whereas HIV/AIDS is the most ominous consequence of unsafe sex, other reproductive health implications still lurk in the shadows. Issues like high rates of teenage pregnancies, unsafe abortions and the ensuing physiological and psychological damages, early marriages, school dropouts are still a staple reality of the Kenyan youth.

We must agree that condoms alone isn’t the answer to all our problems. In fact just dishing out condoms at break time as some Twitter ‘bigwigs’ would have us believe will not add any value to the whole fight. It will be like giving a civilian a fire hose and sending him to into a burning building to save the day.
The condoms must be followed with age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education. The pupils will be reminded that whereas condoms exist for those who are engaging in sex, abstinence and purity still remains viable options. That whereas they must use condoms when engaging in sexual activities, they don’t have to have sex until they are fully ready to deal with the emotional and psychological aspects.

We may not agree on the right of the adolescents to have access to condoms, but we surely have to agree on the right to the highest attainable standard of healthcare including reproductive health as envisioned in article 43 of our constitution. That’s if we are to have a society to create funnier hashtags and memes in future.

 

 

 

Image source: AfriPoP

ROBERT ASEDA is the Partnerships and Policy Officer at the Network for Adolescents and Youth of Africa-Kenya Chapter, a youth led advocacy network that does sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy. He has a BSc. Population Health from Kenyatta University. He has undergone training on budget advocacy, policy advocacy and media advocacy by Planned Parenthood Global and Choice for Youth and Sexuality of the Netherlands. He has been involved in the ICPD process and is currently the chairman of the National Youth Consortium on the POST2015 Development Agenda comprising of young people from organizations working in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights in Kenya. He is also a radio personality, a creative blogger, poet and a regular contributor to local dailies in Kenya. Connect with him on twitter: @Varaq