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East Africa

By PHOEBE RUGURU

Our conversations might be evolving significantly over the past couple of years, especially due to the emergence of social media and the anonymity that it has provided in enabling people to delve into shaky topics. But even so, the topic of sex in our communities, remains among the greatest taboo.

Sex. The word, when you often hear it in the news, is often coupled with the image of reckless youth or the dark consequence of a party gone wrong. In other places, like places of worship, you may hear it referred to as the “sin of the flesh”, as the act that bestowed weakness in the formation of mankind, the act of sin only appropriate within the sacrament of marriage.

With sex remaining a taboo in our society, more harm than good has been achieved, and because of this, new generations are often misled and uninformed of what it could mean for them, further undermining their safety. Recently, debates about reducing the Sex Consent age from 18 to 16 have appeared online, with many people offering their own opinions.

There are several reasons why this is being considered. Some people argue it’s because young people are consensually engaging with sex from much younger years, and sometimes wrongfully being accused of statutory rape. Others argue that some young people are actively seeking to engage in sex and having 18 years as the consensual age inhibits their right to explore their sexuality.

The rise of the arguments is interesting as the age of consent differs greatly across the world. In Bahrain, the age of sexual consent is 21, 18 in California, 16 in Kentucky, and as low as 11 in Nigeria.

In several states, according to ageofconsent.net, the age of sexual consent is not as key as long as sex only takes place within marriage. But in these conversations and debates, though the age of consent is key, the importance of sex education is a key determining factor in ensuring that consent is understood in the first place.

Consent at any age means little if one does not understand what it means and lacks the resources or access to information to assist them in making decisions in their sex life. Sex education in Kenya is, in many ways, less than evolved. For many people in the country, sex education does not surpass a biology lesson they had, or a visit from a social worker who preaches about the immorality of engaging in sinful acts such as sex, drugs and alcohol.

For many people, and commonly in our society, sex has been annotated with meanings designed to cause fear in young people. Using fear as a tool of negating the process of talking about sex, and relying on deterring tactics, such as the threat of pregnancy, threat of being disowned, threat of being sinful and dirty, has been quite observably, unsuccessful.

According to the Demographic and Health Surveys, 2 out of 10 girls, aged 15 to 19, are pregnant, these being only based on the data of girls reported at health centres, suggesting that these numbers are likely lower than reality. Aside from being evidence towards young people engaging in sex below the current age of consent, there is significant reason to consider about whether young people are well informed about contraceptive options available for them.

Several young people have confessed to not having been able to get access to contraceptives or doing it but being harassed or judged for doing so. Some parents and teachers have also expressed fear in teaching about contraceptives out of fear that they would be encouraging young people to engage in sexual behaviour.

But perhaps if anything is to be observed, is that fearing anything, doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. In the same way, not informing young people about how they can be safe means does not mean that they will not engage in sexual activities, it likely means, they will not have the tools or resources to keep themselves safe.

Sex education should be prioritised as a means of protecting young people, and the morals of sex should be reserved for personal choice. Consent, instead, should be the centre through which sexual education begins. Social institutions should be more pro-active and updated in the form of education options available to young people.

Education that teaches what sex is, what it could mean, and what consent is; that it is crucial, and that it can also be withdrawn. Moral penalties should not be used on young people who have either engaged in sex or become pregnant due to it. Fear of being immoral has been a reason for some young people to not go asking for help or support when insecure or abused.

For sex education to be useful to young people, it has to be present; it has to acknowledge the high rise of accessible pornography, the increasing use of social media as a means of trapping young people in sexual trafficking, the spectrum of identities and the willingness to teach about sex beyond the heteronormative ways it has always been taught.

Sex is still a taboo and how to teach it, who to teach it, and when, remain critical questions. But in making these choices, the protection of young people should be centre and a priority before any social, cultural, or religious conformities. Despite any resistance, sex will largely often be a feature of human interaction, and denying it, will not make the reality any different.

 

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. Image: FILE
 
In Summary

• Sonko said that God’s protection has had his enemies upset because he is not suffering as they expected him.

• Sonko said that he will never get tired of praying and thanking God for keeping him and his followers safe.

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has called out those wishing him bad, in another of his morning prayers.

Sonko said that he will never get tired of praying and thanking God for keeping him and his followers safe during these difficult times.

The former governor mentioned that God’s protection has had his enemies upset because he is not suffering as they expected him.

"I pray that You continue to bless and protect us always. We know very well not all storms come to destroy us, some come to clear our path no wonder some people are mad at us because we are not suffering the way they expected us to. Lord May, you keep on disappointing them. We are in your hands," said Sonko.

Since his ouster as Nairobi Governor, Sonko has been sharing life experiences with his followers on social media and engaging in charity. 

He also refers to himself as a blogger and has been occasionally sharing prayers with his followers on social media.

Sonko was impeached by the Senate on Thursday, December 17, 2020, after a majority of the senators voted to uphold the four charges levelled against him by city MCAs.

Some 27 legislators voted in favour of each of the charge, surpassing the Constitutional threshold of 24 votes needed to remove the governor from office. 

Sixteen senators voted against the charges with two senators Mutula Kilonzo Jr and Johnson Sakaja abstained.

Mike Sonko was accused of gross violation of the constitution, abuse of office, gross misconduct and crimes under national law. Star

 

The new Permanent Representative of Burundi to the United Nations, Zéphyrin Maniratanga, paid a courtesy call on UN Secretary-General António Guterres today. He earlier presented his credentials to the Secretariat on 12 March.  (See Press Release BIO/5389.)

Before his latest appointment, Mr. Maniratanga was Chief of State Protocol and Head of his country’s Diplomatic and Protocol Office, a post he took up in October 2020.  Before that he served as Chief of Protocol for the Presidency of Burundi, beginning in October 2010.

Mr. Maniratanga diplomatic experience includes service as Chargé d’affaires at Burundi’s Embassy in India between 2009 and 2010 and in other capacities at the country’s embassies in Canada (2007-2009) and South Africa (2006-2007).

Between 2004 and 2005, he was a Counsellor in the Department of International Organizations, with a portfolio covering relations with the United Nations, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).  Mr. Maniratanga was in charge of relations with Belgium, France and Italy from 2000 until 2002.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from the International Relations Institute of Cameroon, a master’s degree in international and comparative environmental law from Limoges University and a diploma in advanced human rights studies from the University of Nantes, both in France. - United Nations

Members of South Sudan’s National Security Service in a pickup vehicle – NSS [Photo by unknown]

 

JUBA –  The Amnesty International has on Monday warned against lifting of the arms embargo on South Sudan saying the world’s youngest country must first end its crimes against dissent, reform the National Security Service and establish the Hybrid Court provided for in the revitalized peace agreement.

The statement by the human rights watchdog comes less than two weeks before the United Nation Security Council’s slated vote on whether the arms embargo can remain in place against a government appeal for its lifting.

“The Security Council must ensure a range of human rights benchmarks are met before the embargo can be lifted. These include an end to crimes under international law, reform of the National Security Service (NSS), and the establishment of a Hybrid Court to ensure accountability,” the Amnesty International said in a statement Monday.

Sarah Jackson, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for East Africa, Horn and the Great Lakes region said state security tools have remained in repressing dissent despite the revitalized peace agreement signed in 2018 and which also provides for reformation of the body.

“South Sudan’s hard-won independence 10 years ago has sadly not resulted in respect for human rights,” she said.

“State security forces repress freedom of expression including media freedoms and both state security forces and armed groups continue to violate international humanitarian law, in some cases amounting to war crimes, with impunity,” Jackson added.

Sarah further said: “When the Security Council assesses keeping or lifting the arms embargo on South Sudan, it must, at a minimum, set the bar at halting these violations and ending impunity.” - Sudans Post

Child marriage continues to affect many young girls across Tanzania, in East Africa, but now a series of interventions supported by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) are allowing children to get the support they need to avoid unwanted and potentially damaging relationships.

It was 3 o’clock on a Friday afternoon when Grace*, a counsellor at the National Child Helpline in Tanzania, received a call from a concerned teacher in Msalala, a small town in the remote Shinyanga region in the north-west of the East African country.

One of her brightest students Eliza*, aged 13, had not gone to school that day following worrying rumours that her parents intended to marry her off. She learned that they had accepted a payment in the form of a bride dowry from the family of the intended groom. The man chosen for Eliza was at 35-years-old, more than 22 years her senior.

 On a recent two-day visit to Tanzania, UNFPA’s Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem, met with counsellors at the National Child Helpline, in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. The helpline is run by C-Sema, a national NGO, in collaboration with the Government.

UNFPA/Ericky Boniphace
UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem (left) tours the National Child Helpline head office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The #116 toll-free service, available across all mobile networks in Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar, responds to around 3,500 calls a day from women and children who are at risk of violence, and from family and community members who report abuses.

The helpline has reported an increase in calls during the COVID pandemic as school closures made children more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Trained volunteer counsellors like Grace give women and young people support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The counsellors also liaise with support networks and protection systems in the callers’ locality to provide further assistance.

Eliza’s story has a happy ending. As a result of Grace’s coordination with local government authorities and district social welfare officers in Msalala, officers from the Police Gender and Children’s Desk visited Eliza’s parents and the marriage did not take place.

A whole-of-community effort

Dr. Kanem expressed gratitude to C-Sema and counsellors for their dedication to advancing gender equality and the health, rights and well-being of women and young people, including through the use of digital platforms and new technologies. 

Despite progress and the commitment by the Government to tackle gender inequalities and discrimination, as articulated in the Five-year National Plans of Action to End Violence Against Women and Children, violence remains a daily reality for many women and adolescent girls.

UNFPA Tanzania is supporting efforts to eradicate gender-based violence and to strengthen protection systems across the country In addition to supporting the National Child Helpline, it is also working with police officers who staff specialized gender and children’s investigation units which meet the needs of women and girls, and other one-stop support services that provide holistic care all in one place to ensure that victims of abuse do not have to go from one place to another to get medical care, psychosocial support or legal assistance.

Community centres, where women support each other and take the lead in ending violence in their communities, have also been set up.

Empowering men and boys as agents of change

Efforts to end violence are not only focused on empowering women and girls. Men and boys, and traditional and community leaders, are also included in conversations in recognition of their role and contribution to gender equality. Through extensive community outreach, UNFPA’s partners are encouraging discussions around harmful stereotypes of masculinity and positive ways to support the rights of women and girls. 

Engaging men in holding other men accountable is critical to creating the basis for greater equality and they must not be left out or left behind, stressed Dr Kanem.  “Every girl and boy should be valued and should be taught that the expression of their right and empowerment should not be centred on overpowering others."

Supporting government-led efforts

During her visit to Tanzania, Dr. Kanem met with the country’s first female President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, who expressed Tanzania’s commitment to eliminate preventable maternal and child deaths, gender-based violence and harmful practices, including female genital mutilation.

Dr. Kanem commended the government’s leadership and reaffirmed UNFPA’s support to Tanzania to realize development targets and stronger, more inclusive socioeconomic growth with the goal of leaving no one behind.

*name changed to protect identity.

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