By Justus Olielo, Population Council, Reproductive Health Program
Delaying sexual debut has proven life time benefits. On the contrary, early sexual intercourse has been positively associated with negative consequences. This policy brief for the development of a comprehensive policy to address underlying causes of early sexual debut among young adolescents age 12-16 in Kenya.
Developed in 2003, the Adolescent Reproductive Health and Development (ARHD) Policy was the first in Kenya to focus on improving the reproductive health and well-being of adolescents and youth. New policies, guidelines and strategies have since been developed to strengthen and expand programmes available to youths, including; National Guidelines for Provision of Youth-Friendly Services (2005), National Youth Policy (2007),National Reproductive Health Policy (2007), among others.
However, none of these specifically address the causes and consequences of early sexual debut among young adolescents aged 12-16 years, particularly those living in informal settlements. For example, The National Youth Policy (2007) defines youth as being between 15-30 years.
A majority of the population in Kenya is under age 20, and more than two out of five people are under age 15. According to the 2008/09 Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS), 11.5% women and 22.3% men had their sexual debut before age 15yrs.
A 2013 study conducted by APHRC in two informal settlements in Nairobi found out that for both males and females aged 12-16 years, early sexual debut is positively associated with having permanently dropped out of school, having never attended school and having experienced severe family dysfunction. Lack of parental supervision was a predictor of sexual debut among males only whereas low aspiration was a predictor among females only. Participation in social groups, sibling risk behaviors, marital breakdown and violence, are also risk factors for early sexual activity.
Adolescents who initiate sex at young ages are more likely than those who do not to have multiple and concurrent partners, engage in unprotected sexual intercourse and acquire STIs, including HIV, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and permanently drop out of school.
The policy should make provision for interventions that;
Call to Action
Based on the aforesaid, it is critical;