I am writing about a situation that is not only prevalent in Kenya but a global phenomenon - Children’s rights are being
violated with impunity. In countries like Cote d’Ivoire and Sudan, children are being recruited into war, giving rise to countless numbers of child soldiers.
For others, children’s rights do not even exist. As I write this, I just watched on the Larry King show about two mothers. One drowned her 5 children and the other stoned her two sons to death and left one critically injured. She placed their heads on rocks and then stoned them. Afterwards, she said that it was God who had told her to do so! . I have based my story on the rights of children from The Children Act Cap 586: Laws of Kenya.
(RIGHT 1) First of all, children have a right to life. This, however, is totally violated. A good example is a story that broke the hearts of many. A father, in a Nairobi estate, slashed his two young sons to death, covered them up, and then hanged himself. However stressed we are it is not worth a life. Another mother who wanted to get rid of her child threw the infant into a toilet! Yet another example is abortion. This is murder by all means.
(RIGHT 2) Children have a right to be protected from discrimination based on origin, sex, religion, creed, custom, language, opinion, conscience, colour, birth, social, political, economic, or other status, race, disability, tribe, residence and local connection. However, the exampIes below lend credence to allegations of discrimination. A street boy in Kikuyu- an urban centre in Kenya, who goes by the name of Dave who was hit really seriously by a lorry driver who, as usual, quickly drove off. People looked at Dave as he lay there helplessly. His fellow street friends rushed to the scene and helped him up. They took him to the older children who in turn went to the police station. There was no help to be found for Dave there.
They came out and walked back sadly. They had to go back and ask butcher men to help them. I did not stay around there much longer but went home. I have to say that Dave was discriminated against because of his social status. Another example is in schools where those who have not completed their fees are sent home. The child is therefore embarrassed and made to suffer on behalf of the parents.
(RIGHT 3) Children must be protected from sexual exploitation, prostitution, inducement or coercion to engage in any sexual activity, and exposure to obscene materials. I have proof to show you that this right is being violated. There was a 14 year old girl who had been living with her grandmother in the central town of Muthiga. She was a class eight pupil at Mama Ngina primary school. Her teachers noticed that she was really sleepy in class and began investigations. They found out that she was as busy as a bee at night. Her grandmother peddled all sorts of illicit brews in the house. It turned out that she would help in selling brews besides engaging in prostitution. This was a way for her granny to make extra money.
(RIGHT 4) Children have a right to education. Both the government and parents are responsible for providing education. Every child is entitled to free basic education, which is compulsory in accordance with Article 28 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. We also have a right to religious education and parents are expected to guide us on issues to do with religion. I congratulate the government for introducing free education. Yet some parents do not take their children to school. They would rather they stay at home and not only does this happen to girls, but also to boys who stay at home and shepherd the sheep, goats and cows. All these show how the rights of children are taken for granted!
(RIGHT 5) Children have a right to health. Most people in Kenya do not have enough money to take their children to hospital and from what I know; the rate of poverty in Kenya is really high. This leads to vices like child prostitution. This exposes the children to HIV/AIDS. Parents and the government should find a way to help children get free healthcare and medical services.
(RIGHT 6) They must be protected from exploitation and any work that is harmful to their health, physical, mental, moral or social development, or which could interfere with their education. This in Kenya, though, is compromised. Parents send their children to be house girls and houseboys. The girl I wrote about in RIGHT 3 is a good example of economic exploitation which interfered with her education.
(RIGHT 7) Children with disabilities ought to be treated with respect. They should be given the medical care they require and education or training free of charge or at a reduced rate where possible. There is a boy who is mentally handicapped and lives with his grandmother who does not have money to take him to school, nor to hospital. His mother is also mentally ill. Usually his food is placed on the floor because he can’t eat from the table and if he hits it and it pours on the floor, he has no choice but to eat it from the floor! His grandmother looks for places in special schools but some are too full for him whilst most are too expensive. The law clearly states that schools should either be free of charge or at a reduced rate but not that expensive.
(RIGHT 8) Child offenders must be separated from adults in custody, but just about a month ago, a young boy was arrested for supposedly raping his friend and was put in a cell together with grown-ups. Now that was unlawful and a violation of his rights.
(RIGHT 9) The act states that children have a right to privacy. Parents make brothers and sisters sleep together in the same room or beds not realising that they are in puberty and have sexual feelings. This causes incest. In the traditional homes there was nothing like incest for the father and sons would sleep in a different room.
The punishment for interfering with these rights is either a prison sentence of not more than 1 year and or a fine of KES 50,000 [US$6450]. But this is too lenient, especially for child rapists. The penalties should be stiffer to deter future offenders.
It is my sincere hope that my story makes an impact and changes people who have been violating our rights as children. I also hope that my ideas are taken up by you as parents, whatever your occupation, members of the public and teachers.