A TV series that was airing on Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), previously known as Voice of Kenya, was banned after two ministers clashed over its content.
The government cancelled the series ‘Usiniharakishe’ (Don’t Rush Me) in October 1986 following an immediate uproar and sustained debate nationwide.
Omar Soba, then assistant in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, supported the move to ban the show arguing that it was promoting obscenity.
But his health permanent secretary counterpart, Simeon Shitemi, countered, arguing that it was essential in tackling teen pregnancies in the country.
The standoff was extended to Parliament, where ministers failed to reach a consensus regarding the directive to withdraw the show after only three episodes.
“We have a duty to look after the health of this nation. Our social system is breaking down and children are the victims. Kenyans should not just look on idly,” Shitemi stated.
His sentiments were supported by other viewers who argued that the government’s censorship directive was irrational. They compared the show with other soap operas which had extreme content.
The Ministry of Health produced Usiniharakishe after receiving funds from World Bank. The series was meant to educate Kenyan youth on teen pregnancies after statistics pointed an upward trajectory in cases of childbirth.
Specifically, the government revealed that 20 per cent of childbirth came from adolescent pregnancies.
In November 2005, Usiniharakishe series was published on various social media platforms allowing the viewers to watch the outlawed TV show.
However, almost three decades after the ban was imposed, the government is still struggling to find a perfect way to address the issue of teen pregnancies and school dropouts.
Efforts have, nonetheless, been made to curb the issue. One of the measures is allowing pregnant teens to complete their education. The re-entry policy allows pregnant girls to stay in school for as long as they can and only resume studies six months after delivery.
Article 43 of the Promulgated 2010 Constitution also recognises the right to education for everyone, while Article 27 also guarantees equality and freedom from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.
“The State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including sex, race, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth,” it says.