Over the weekend Kenyan Twitter was ablaze with anger and condemnation over a trending hashtag #ifikiewazazi (Swahili for ‘this should get to the parents’).
The hashtag was generated to expose a bunch of teenagers allegedly sharing raunchy and nude photos on social media platform including Instagram. The photos went viral and some even landing on the parent’s phones as originally intended.
And that’s where we have a problem.
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For starters, these children are teenagers and as per the Kenyan law exposing nude pictures of underage children is illegal. The Sexual Offences Act 2006 explicitly state that the possession and distribution of obscene objects depicting a child (defined as anyone under the age of 18) constitute child pornography and the offender is liable to not less than six-year prison term or USD5,000 fine or both upon conviction.
Legal issues aside, many people online felt as if the trending hashtag was not only a sign of ‘fake concern’ especially as adults but also a failure of teaching these teenagers on how to deal with digital spaces, where they can easily encounter predators.
In Kenya, sex education takes the abstinence-only approach and efforts to bring in comprehensive sexual education has been met with opposition from the church and from a section of parents, who feel as if their children will be exposed to such immoral acts. Which is sad really as the statistics indicate that children as young as 10 are already engaging in sexual acts.
The issue is deeper than this. Most of our parents were also not taught sex education (most had to figure out things on their own), which means they do not know how to deal with teaching others- something made even worse with the rise of free and accessible digital media. They also had to face consequences such as shaming and discrimination when their parents or the society discovered they were having sex.
Such shaming is what perpetuated the #ifikiewazazi hashtag, with many wishing the worst form of punishment on these kids. So it was no surprise to see the police arresting the teens suspected of the nude photography and other obscene acts.
Several teenagers arrested for posting explicit pictures pic.twitter.com/PoGj74ZfFL
— K24 TV (@K24Tv) April 15, 2018
The failure to teach these children about sex and sexuality and everything surrounding it is the reason most of them look for alternative sources of information. From popular media to experienced peers, these sources of information may not have the right information or the best strategy to educate the teens on sex.
More parents, educators, the church and any other stakeholder dealing with children will need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to sex education, especially with reports indicating that there has been an increase of online child sexual exploitation in Africa.
And as the Kenyan Officer Commanding Police Division, Robinson Thuku, says in the video, the parents should keep in mind that they are still responsible for their teenage children.