Right to love, sex and marriage
The Constitution states that everyone, including people with epilepsy, has the right to equality (Article 27 CoK). This means that everyone has the right to decide whether they want to be close with someone. Whether or not you have epilepsy, you have the choice to allow or deny intimacy.
When you get to know someone well and you feel that the person is the type you’d like to be close with, it’s advisable to be open about who you are; your strengths and challenges. It is your right not to tell them you have epilepsy, but how can they assist you during a seizure when you do not inform them about it? They may feel disappointed that you kept it a secret to them, and therefore, they may decide to leave you.
The choice is yours, although we encourage you to be open about your health since epilepsy is nothing to feel embarrassed about. We believe that a person, who truly loves you, will take you with all your strengths and challenges. Just remember that epilepsy is a small part of who you are. It’s neither your character nor your personality; it is only a disruption in your brain when you have a seizure. Take time to explain what it is, so people understand you better and be there for you, for better and worse.
Intimacy and intimidation
In our interaction with people, we all have our preferences about whom we want to spend our time with. There are people with whom we want to be close to and people we’d rather keep at a distance. People may get close to you with or without your consent. Intimacy is being close out of your own choice; intimidation is being harassed by someone.
Sometimes people say that girls actually mean YES when they say NO. Nonetheless, the reality is that everyone has to respect and accept someone’s ‘no’ to intimacy.
Intimidation is not allowed by law, nobody is allowed to get intimate with you against your own will. When someone begins to get physically close to you against your will, you can start by being assertive and speaking out where your boundary is, you can say:
- I like you as my friend, but I don’t want you to touch my thighs;
- I know that the matatu is full, but I still don’t want you to hang so much over my shoulders;
- I think you are standing very close to me, l prefer more distance;
- I know we are “brothers and sisters in Christ”, but you don’t have to hug me.
The person to whom you speak can offer apologies and avoid any repetition, or they may do it again. If it happens again, you can be more clear and firm in your statement. Your own boundary is to be appreciated regardless of their opinion.
When the person doesn’t respect your boundary, then the person doesn’t respect your right. When you miss the chance to defend yourself, it’s important to seek assistance.
Triza and Sam are good friends, but Sam likes Triza so much that he wants to be closer to her. He starts hugging her and wants to kiss her.
Triza: Hey, I don’t want you to kiss me.
Sam: But I like you, I need to express my love.
Triza: You can also express your love through words. If I don’t want you to hug and kiss me, you need to keep off of me. I have the right to give my boundary and you have the obligation to respect that.
Sam: Why are you being so difficult? Can’t you just simply enjoy it? You are really fragile!
Triza: I know I’m not fragile, but simply telling you what I want and don’t want. I know it’s my right to choose when I want to get intimate. When I give my limits, you need to respect this to be able to be my friend.
People have various reasons to have sex. They may want to have sex to show their love for someone. Other people may do it out of curiosity to know how it feels. These are examples of those who want to do it out of free will. Unfortunately sometimes people do it for other reasons such as peer pressure to be a ‘real man’ or to be an ‘experienced woman’. Or they may give in to having sex out of fears to lose the person they love; fearing that he or she will take off if they postpone the sexual intercourse.
Remember to always and very carefully, ask yourself if you are certain that you want to have sex. Don’t have sex just because you think that everyone else is doing it, or to give in to pressure from friends or adults. If you are uncertain about what you should do in such a situation, wait and speak about it with an adult whom you trust and ask their advice.
Sex is only allowed when you’re both supporting the act, and legally when both of you are above 18 years old. When you are 18 years or older, and have sex with someone who is younger than 18, you can be prosecuted and jailed for this, even when both of you were supporting the act.
NB: The Sexual Offences Act requires that everyone has to take reasonable steps (for instance asking for an I.D. document especially where the age cannot be ascertained just from looking) to ensure that the person they have sex with, is over 18.
According to the Kenyan Constitution, every adult has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex, based on the free consent of the parties (Article 45 CoK). This right cannot be hindered due to someone’s ethnicity, nationality, and religion or health status (Article 27 CoK).
The Constitution also states that every person, which includes a person with epilepsy, is equal and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law (Article 27 CoK). Having epilepsy doesn’t take away the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to be addressed in a manner which is not demeaning (Article 54 CoK). Therefore people with epilepsy have equal rights to get married and to start a family.
When you’re married, both partners have equal rights; both are responsible to take good care of each other. This means that having epilepsy doesn’t change your position.
Pregnancy and abortion
Most people with epilepsy can get children. Like anyone else, they have the legal right to sex from the age of 18, and therefore the right to become parents from 18 years of age. In most cases, the epilepsy doesn’t affect the health of the children. Epilepsy is therefore no reason to be denied the chance to get children.
When planning to become a parent, seek medical advice. This is because anti-epileptic drugs sometimes need to be adjusted to ensure that the baby is not affected.
<h1>Protection from pregnancy</h1>
It is your right to choose when you’re ready to become a parent. It’s not your parents or your spouse alone who tell you when the timing is right. Both you and your partner must feel ready to take the responsibility for pregnancy and the upbringing of the children.
When you do not feel ready to get children, you need protection from pregnancy as much as anyone else. You can decide to abstain from sex until you feel ready to get children. When you do not want to abstain from sex, you can choose out of various ways to prevent pregnancy:
1. Male or female condom;
2. Contraceptive coil (IUD, intrauterine device);
3. Contraceptive pill;
4. Contraceptive injection.
Even though they all work to prevent pregnancy, it is only the first that can also prevent infection from STDs. The last three options can be used in a relationship where the couple is faithful and don’t share the bed with other partners.
A may couple may have unprotected sex, or if they may use a condom, but it brakes. In such a case the woman may conceive within the first 72 hours after intercourse/having sex.
In such cases there are various measures the woman can take to avoid unplanned and unwanted, pregnancy. One of the options is the emergency contraceptive, which must be taken within 72 hours after sexual intercourse. When no action is taken within the first 72 hours, then there is only the option of abortion to end the pregnancy; in countries and situations where it is legally accepted.
According to the Kenyan Constitution, abortion is not permitted, unless there is need for emergency treatment in the opinion of a trained health professional or the life or health of the mother is in danger (Article 26.4 CoK).
People who are married may experience challenges in their relationship, which can lead them to consider divorce. The court can approve a divorce if both parties show that there is no love between them anymore, after a minimum of three years marriage.
According to the Matrimonial Causes Act (Section 8), a person is not allowed to divorce you because of your epilepsy. A person would only be allowed to leave you if you have become of incurable unsound mind while you’ve been under care and treatment for a period of at least five years. Most people with epilepsy are not mentally challenged, and it can therefore not be said that they are of unsound mind. When you are in a marriage where you are not secure; for example because you are denied your freedom or good care by your partner, then you have the right to leave the house. Safety comes first. When you cannot find a solution together, it may be better to file for divorce than to stay in the same situation where your safety is not assured.
The person requesting for divorce must prove to the court that the divorce is justified. The party must prove that their case fits within one of the few grounds for divorce. A divorce can be approved if the partner has:
- Committed adultery;
- Left their partner without cause for a period of at least three years;
- Treated their partner with cruelty; or
- If the partner is incurably of unsound mind and has been continuously under care and treatment for a period of at least five years.