Developing countries such as Kenya have had a very high rate of teenage and underage pregnancies.
Today it is commonplace to read about children below 10 years giving birth. From my general reading on the subject, Kenya has had a very high incidence of teenage pregnancies with about 15 per cent of youth aged between 15-19 affected.
Some of the causes of teenage pregnancy include early child marriages that are sadly still prevalent in some communities. Rape and defilement would also be the other cause.
Social ills such as drug and alcohol abuse as well as promiscuity could be other causes of teenage pregnancies.
The effects of teenage pregnancy are many. Other than the psychological and health effect this has on children, teenage pregnancy is a major contributor to the high rate of school dropout. A lot of child-mothers, end up being rejected and having to resort to child labour in order to survive.
Some end up taking on vices such as prostitution. Therefore, it is clear that teenage pregnancy may affect a child’s growth and development. A lot of times society is quick to judge and forgets that many of these mothers are just children themselves and need care and protection.
Kenya has an institution that is charged with securing child rights. I do not know what kind of initiatives have been undertaken at a teenage level to prevent pregnancies.
There is a need for awareness programmes on the dangers of early sexual exposure because in many cases, teenage pregnancies arose from consensual sexual intercourse. Prevention it is said is better than cure.
However, what is the scenario in the event a child gets pregnant?
Currently, there is a proposed law on this issue — the Care & Protection of Child and Parents Bill 2016. I call for its quick enactment as it really does provide direction and framework on this issue.
We should remember that every child has rights and one doesn’t cease being one by begetting another child. In any event, child-mothers are very vulnerable. Child rights include the right to life, protection from abuse, health, protection from torture and education amongst many other rights.
These rights are contained in the children laws and a number of treaties that Kenya is a signatory to.
I love the approach in this Bill as it defines and secures the rights of both the child-parent and their child as minors.
The Bill ensures that a child parents education is not cut off due to early pregnancy. It stipulates that both the child-parent and child continue receiving care and protection in regards to their rights. It further criminalises institutions that fail to offer child-parents education on account of early pregnancy.
I believe if this Bill was passed many years ago, a lot of children who had been forced out of school due to early pregnancy would have been given a chance to complete their education and to grow and develop as any other “normal” child would have.
A lot of these young girls are now grown-up women and most have a similar story, that is, they did not get a chance to be educated simply because they got pregnant early.
This Bill will give a chance to the current and future generations, in that no child would have to be denied education just because of early pregnancy.