“You may live in the world as it is, but you can still work to create the world as it should be.”Barrack Obama
I am not sure how accurate it is to juxtapose the situation in the Kenyan society today in relation to the debate on morality and how it affects our laws with a case where a shoe no longer fits but since it is a shoe you have been wearing for a while, and it has become sort of part of your identity, you refuse to let go of. Your friends also know it does not fit anymore, the timorous ones never mention this but the bold ones tell you a couple of times but you always find an excuse because after all, you do not know whether you would like another shoe as much as this old one. Is it time for Kenya to let go of moral ideals and make laws that are truly reflective of society as it is and not what it used to be?
Debates are being unearthed in Kenya today which makes it seem that our laws, especially the Constitution may not be wholly a product of the Kenyan population. Debates on LGBTQ rights, abortion, the use of contraceptives among sexually active minors, Justice Chitembwe’s controversial judgment on defilement among others seem to suggest that as a nation, we are not united when it comes to these issues. This begs the question, is Kenya a secular or religious country? Who is fooling who in this nation?
It is no longer news that secularism is on the rise in Kenya especially in the urban centers, Nairobi, its capital, being on the lead. It is becoming a growing phenomenon that cannot be ignored. This is evident especially among the youthful population, who, even though affirm their belief in God, no longer attend places of worship or lead their lives in a manner that might suggest that they subscribe to any form of religion.
Some would say that this is a reflection of the extensive influence from the West, especially America and Europe, which are seen to have embraced secularism. This is evidenced by the dwindling performance of ceremonies in the church which were formerly considered religious and took place there such as weddings and funerals. In addition, the congregations are getting smaller in number and comprise mostly of senior citizens which have led to the closing down of many churches. In as much as the situation in Kenya is not as grave, this might be the case a few years down the line.
In an attempt to answer the aforementioned questions, it is my view that making laws that are informed by religious beliefs no longer serves a nation where a good number of its citizens no longer values these beliefs. For instance, making abortion illegal and not a matter of choice might be of service to those who believe that life begins at conception, but what about the Kenyan who does not believe in this? A Kenyan who believes that children are from the Creator and He does everything for a purpose may carry a child born out of rape up to term and love it regardless but what of the Kenyan who believes that conception is wholly a Biological process? What does ‘health of the mother’ mentioned in Article 26 of the constitution really mean? Secularism calls for neutrality and considering all facts at play before imposing beliefs on a population. This may be a better solution for Kenya.
I believe the laws should be reflective of society, otherwise, implementing them would be a pipe dream. A recent study done by the Ministry of Health in conjunction with the African Population of Health Research Center, revealed that about 465,000 unsafe abortions take place in Kenya every year. As a result, nearly 120,000 women are treated in health facilities each year for complications arising from unsafe abortions. What does this tell about the efficacy of Kenyan laws on abortion? What does the rise of pregnancy among underage teenagers say about the Kenyan society? Are there laws that can be amended or freshly be put in place to remedy this situation?
These are the questions that Kenyans must put into consideration and fight the rigidity in amending laws that no longer suit society. Get new shoes that fit better and serve better than the tight old ones. Listen to and borrow from the friends who point out the problem and are willing to help come up with solutions. Society should be built from the ground up and not the other way around.