Article Text

ETHICAL–LEGAL COMPLEXITIES IN CONSENTING CHILDREN FOR MALE CIRCUMCISION IN KENYA
  1. D S Omondi Aduda1
  1. 1Male Circumcision Program, Nyanza Province, Kenya

Abstract

In the Kenya Children’s Act of 2001, a child is any person under 18 years. A child of tender years is one below 10 years. The Kenya Citizenship Act Ch. 170 states a minor is any person who is less than 21 years. The Marriage and Divorce Act states a minor’s age is 16 years for females and 18 years for males. A male of 12 years is considered incapable of sexual offences. Section 14 of the Penal code sets the age of criminal responsibility at 8 years. But this may only mean that a child can distinguish right from wrong, but not necessarily give consent. The children’s department and the courts accept 8 years as the minimum age for decision-making. However their understanding; maturity; survival; best interest and welfare of the child are critical considerations. The medical practice guidelines and Kenya Public Health Act (1986) are inadequate with regard to MC process, but the minister can make regulations in some matters of public health (sec 11 and 13).

Kenya lacks a comprehensive regulatory framework for voluntary MC in children. There is need to justify and fortify its public health importance and implications to pre-empt potential ethical, legal, policy and regulatory complexities related to the practice. The intent and context of MC based on current medical and scientific knowledge are critical considerations. However, translating the scientific results from an adult population to the children is an ethical challenge. “Therapeutic” and “non-therapeutic” are some of the terminological challenges in public health interventions and research.

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