Kristine Christlieb reports for ChurchMilitant.com — Kenya’s bishops are saying comprehensive sex education is not the answer to the alleged explosion of underage pregnancies.
According to Catholic News Service (CNS), the bishops are responding to a Kenya Health Information Systems (KHIS) survey finding that more than 150,000 young girls were impregnated during school closures owing to the Wuhan virus pandemic. The KHIS survey found that the “incidents” occurred between January and May and affected girls ages 10–19.
With schools closed and parents working, many children and teenagers were left at home without supervision. In some cases, parents sent their children to the countryside to stay with grandparents. Kenyan bishops acknowledged the problem and used the opportunity to promote the family structure.
In a televised statement, Bp. Joseph Ndembu Mbatia, chairman of the Kenyan bishops’ health commission, emphasized the need for “strong family values.” He encouraged parents by telling them “personal responsibilities on nurturing and safeguarding children can go a long way toward eradicating or significantly reducing child sexual exploitation and the resultant teenage pregnancies.”
According to CNS, “Some Kenyans are questioning the pregnancy statistics, saying they could be manipulated by organizations pushing for sex education.” Their concerns, observers say, may be appropriate.
Because the first Wuhan virus case was not reported in Kenya until March 13 — and its schools were not closed nationwide until March 15 — the survey’s window would have to be March 15 through May (not January through May) in order to accurately link the pregnancy surge with school closure.
The nation’s education cabinet secretary George Magoha offered a counter/concurrent explanation for the pregnancy surge : exposure to adult sexual content. Calling for the ban of such content in Kenya, Magoha argued that it was encouraging sexual experimentation.
“Why are such sites easily accessible in Kenya yet banned in other countries?” he asked. Magoha questioned the survey’s findings: “I will interrogate the rate of pregnancies, as they look manipulated. Who is giving these figures? Could some NGOs behind sex education be pushing for the numbers?”
In November, Nairobi hosted the 2019 International Conference on Population and Development Summit (ICPD), an event that also troubled Kenya’s bishops. In a televised statement, the bishops expressed their concern that under the guise of helping women, summit participants actually were advocating for comprehensive sexual education that would go against African culture and Catholic religious heritage. On behalf of the bishops, Bp. Phillip Anyolo of Kisumu said:
Any meaningful summit will be expected to focus on programs that uplift women and children living in poverty; migration; strategies for development and literacy and education; encouraging [the] culture of peace; supporting the family as the basic unit of society. We view this agenda [of the Summit] as an attempt to corrupt our young people and enslave them to foreign ideologies, for example, same-sex unions and active homosexual activities.
In 2017, the Trump administration announced it would no longer give U.S. taxpayer dollars to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) because of its sponsorship of coercive abortions and involuntary sterilization around the world.
There are 7.5 million Catholics in Kenya, representing 33% of the population. By comparison, 22% of the American population is Catholic. Kenya is overwhelmingly Christian, with over 70% of the population identifying as either Catholic or Protestant. African bishops are largely known for their orthodoxy.