Kenya children speak on parental consent in their sex affairs

By Gatonye Gathura

Kenya’s under-18, are divided over parental involvement in their sexual affairs, shows research presented at the ongoing HIV summit in Paris, France.

In one of two presentations by researchers from the US and Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), 15 year-olds boys and girls were clearly in favour of parental involvement.

In the second study involving under-18 girls only, and done by two Western Kenya based NGO and the University of North Carolina, US, the children would only allow parents under certain conditions.

In the latter, the minors said parents were welcome but not when personal matters such as of their boyfriends were being discussed.

“Many felt having a relationship is personal and were not ready to have their parents know, yet, that they have boyfriends,” says the presentation by Dr Kawango Agot of Impact Research and Development Organization.

If a parent has to be involved then, Agot said most girls would prefer to have their mother present rather than father.

The two studies both among under-18s in western Kenya ware seeking the adolescents’ views on parental consent to HIV testing or their participation in HIV research.

The two poster presentations were unveiled at the ongoing IAS2017 HIV conference in Paris, France, which has attracted over 6,000 researchers and lobbyists.

Twenty two Kenya researchers and HIV lobbyists are making presentation at the four day event which started on Sunday.

The Kemri study had involved both boys and girls aged below 18 years from western Kenya.

“Overwhelming majority of the adolescents felt that parents of minors should be present for part or all of HIV testing and disclosure,” says the Kemri study.

Even among those who felt conflicted about or against mandatory parental permission for minors the research says they were in favour of some parental guidance.

“Youth primarily wanted to have their parents present during HIV testing and disclosure because they wanted their support,” says the Kemri study presented by Allison K. Groves of the US.

These findings seem to have surprised the Kemri researchers:  “Our findings depart from existing discourse and provide an important perspective from Kenyan youth on benefits of parental involvement.”

The departure the study alluded to seems to point to efforts by lobbyists in Kenya to waive parental consent on matters of sex education, HIV testing and research through the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2104.

The Bill has met strong opposition from religious groups and teachers’ trade unions but significant support in the social media. However with yesterday action the fight acquired global dimensions.

Conclusions in the two studies are equally divergent with Kemri calling on those planning research on minors to make sure they involve parents.

“Ethical guidelines that prioritize adolescent autonomy in research must take into account reasons to involve their parents.”

On the other hand Dr Agot presentation concluded that the minors can adequately comprehend what is required in such matters implying they don’t require any hand holding.