The teenage pregnancies: Porn is actually an issue but it’s not the whole story

The teenage pregnancies debate has calmed down just a week after it took social media by storm following the revelation that roughly 300,000 school going girls, majority being teenagers, had gotten pregnant between the months of March and May 2020. The numbers got people outraged.

Kenyans were outraged by the close to 300,000 figure mostly because it appeared so huge in and by itself and secondly under the context that the teenage pregnancies happened in a span of three months. Thirdly, the outrage was a result of lack of proper context. For example no one seemed to want to know of the number of teenage pregnancies that could have happened between January and March, and those that could have happened between October and December 2019. Due to lack of this proper context, majority of people involved in the debate were quick to conclude that the teenage pregnancies were as a result of school closures following COVID-19 pandemic.

Some context for those pregnancies can be found in article by Glory Ngatha Mturi who wrote that “Data from Kenya Data and Health Survey (2014) show that 1 in every 5 girls between 15-19 years is either pregnant or already a mother.”

That is, the teenage pregnancy rate in Kenya stands at 20%. With roughly 2.6 million Kenyan teenage girls aged between 15 and 19 according to the 2019 census report; 20% of that would be 520,000. What that means is that by the end of 2020, we should expect around 520,000 teenage pregnancies in Kenya.

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That context tells us that teenage pregnancies that were reported a week ago had nothing to do with school closures, or any cultural shift, but just a snippet of what has been going on through the years; a snippet of what’s wrong with our dealings with teenegers on matters sex, and what’s wrong in our ignorance of the root cause of the problem.

The problem with the pregnancies is that those kids got pregnant as no one seems worried about the x10 others who also had sex but didn’t get pregnant, for either they got lucky, or practiced safe sex. The problem therefore is not the sex, but sex education and safe sex. In places like Western Europe and the US where sex education has taken off, statistics on teen pregnancies have been on the decline year after year.

Take for example this excerpt about teenage sex in the US, “An estimated 55% of male and female teens have had sexual intercourse by age 18”. That’s a lot of teens. But the good news from there is that “approximately 80% of teens used some form of contraception at first sex, according to a new report by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics”.

What that means is that these teens (and young adults), are able to enjoy sex without having to worry about the negative repercussions that come with sex. Obviously the teenagers know how to have sex; whether or not they are having it with adult males (I have no idea why people are ruling out teenage boys who play with these girls all day), and it is

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At national levels, watching content with sex scenes have not been found to increase teenage pregnancies, at least in countries that have established proper sex education. Although there are studies that suggest that exposure to pornography may lead to sex experimentation, such exposure when done under the context of proper sex education tend to have minimal effect on the rate of teenage pregnancies. What has been found to actually contribute to the escalation of the pregnancies is poverty, lack of proper sex education, and the unprotected sex.

1. Poverty. Teenage pregnancies directly correlates with poverty, as some of these teens issue sex in exchange for food or pads. In a society where no one is worried about where they’ll get their next meal and incidences of sex for money will greatly reduce, even among adults. In this country of ours however, there is a lot of sex that goes that’s directly caused by poverty. As Achieng’ Nyawade put it, “in marginalized communities and poor neighbourhoods, young, underage girls are victims of sexual exploitation and rape, pushed by culture or an economic need.”

2. Sex education. Young ones start experimenting with their bodies even as young as six years. With or without exposure to sex content, sexual animals will always experiment with their sex organs.

3. Parenting. In as much as it can be argued that consuming sex content does not significantly affect teenage pregnancies, allowing the teenagers to freely consume such content in presence of poverty, absence of proper sex education, and without guidance on safe sex will make it very easy for the teenagers to experiment with sex ideas they get from consuming such content. To avoid that, it must be the work of the parent to ensure that the teenagers are properly guided and monitored closely.

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4. Safe sex. We should make it easy to access condoms for those who have undergone sex education. We may wish that no teenager engages in sex, but that would be living in utopia. However, if we let the teenagers know that if they must have sex they are better off having it safe, then we shall have reduced the incidences of STIs and teenage pregnancies by more than 80%. In the US 55% of teenagers engage in sex, but 80% of them do it safely.

Other than sex related content, the other thing that was blamed for the teenage pregnancies is rape or sex with underage girls. This cannot be downplayed or remotely assumed. The fact is that a number of the girls have sex with adults who happen to be their relatives. Big brothers, big cousins, uncles, and at times even their own fathers. This is the bunch of men that Achieng’ Nyawade referred to as “men are trash”, a fraction that she says “cannot make such big numbers, however romantic we want to feel about the statistics.”

Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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