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MATHIU: Law should protect our children from pests

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By MUTUMA MATHIU
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A friend visited Kodiaga prison in Kisumu and came out with a story of horror: It appeared as if nearly all the prisoners were in for rape. He visited King’ong’o in Nyeri — he is in the criminal justice trade — and came out with the same story. There is a rape crisis in the country, he opined, and it probably had something to do with the Children Act, which criminalised sexual relations between teens.

First, I must declare my interest in the matter: I am the father of many daughters. I love children and nothing brings me more joy than raising them, arguing with them, worrying about them, dreaming with them.

The saddest part of my weekend these days is that my children don’t want to watch my movies with me anymore; they find them awful. My fondest memories are curling up on the sofa with the kids for a good movie. Monsters Vs Aliens, Sound of Music, Wonder Woman and many more bring lots of memories.

I am not very rational about children and their protection. But I will try to make a reasonable argument.

On Thursday, the country was awash with debate after the Daily Nation informed readers in advance about a report they were preparing on the proposal to allow sex with younger children. Today, it’s a crime to be involved sexually with a child; that is, anyone below the age of 18.

Apparently, because of the large number of adolescents who have been incarcerated for sexual contact with girls younger than 18, judges of the Court of Appeal have asked for the minimum age of consent to be lowered to 16. This presumes, of course, that those who are having sex with children are other children, which is not true. There is a large number of older people seducing children.

The danger is that we might rewrite the law, disadvantage the children, put their lives and health at risk and benefit paedophiles by allowing them legal access to our children. What is the biggest need in the lives of our children, especially girls? Is it access to legal sex? The biggest challenge for many girls is staying in school, completing their studies and qualifying for a job that will give them a good life. Nothing could be more dangerous to children than sex.

What sometimes happens in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there is widespread and wholesale rape of women, especially girls, is one of the most atrocious things in a continent where bad things are not unknown.

I have always thought that Africans raise their children, not attack them as an act of war. In the olden days, women and children were never touched during war. You may add that wells were never poisoned, animals and crops were never destroyed and bridges were left intact. But the fact remains that, even in war, children were unharmed.

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It worries me that, rather than getting better at protecting children, Africans are getting worse. They are putting them under arms and hurting them for pleasure or to make a political or military point.

My colleagues have pointed out to me that it is possible to deal with consenting sex among adolescents as separate from contact between a child and an older person. A 17-year-old boy who becomes inappropriately involved with his 16-year-old girlfriend is not treated the same as a 35-year-old. I’d rather everyone, including the boy, just obeyed the law.

We live in a dangerous place. Africa is not just the Cradle of Mankind, it is also a hunting ground for predators who roam our lands in search of children. They might come as tourists or missionaries to establish orphanages and sanctuaries — what an irony — for children. There are homegrown perverts, too, seeking out children for transactional sex.

The current law protects our children, as it should. We are not outlawing sex; we are merely asking our children, for their own good, to wait until they are 18.

Whereas I don’t aspire to be a dictator in my house, my thinking is that my children should behave according to my wishes until the age of 21. After that, I will have no unsolicited opinion about anything they do.

They can club until the wee hours, have boyfriends and husbands, move out, move in, move up and down … my work in raising them is done. But until then, it is my responsibility to protect them in the best way I know how. Just like any other parent.

I am told that there are many paedophiles in my tribe these days. Men smoke weed, it addles their brains and they attack children. In the olden days, I was told, there were no bad men in our villages because bad men would have such bad luck, it often resulted in the most unusual of accidents.

On their way home in the dark, it was not unheard of for such bad men to stumble and plunge down a gorge — there are many deep gorges and valleys in my home county — and be so smashed up against the rocks that it would be impossible to determine how they actually met their end. I have often wondered in my more uncharitable moments how bad luck unerringly selected bad people. So, rather than leaving it to bad luck, why not just have laws that protect children and allow us to remove predators and other bad people from society?

Lowering the age of consent does not help our daughters and granddaughters. Leave it alone.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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