A case for mental health awareness as a means to access to justice

Aug 10-IPJDDying to be heard: Mental Illness impairs prisoners’ ability to articulate themselves during self-representation in court.

Our prisons are full of troubled minds…

Mental health care and awareness is deemed a luxury even for free citizens. The situation is especially dire for incarcerated persons. Stone walls and iron bars serve as a deterrent to proper mental health care provision, under the guise of proper retribution for past wrongs/offences.

Mental health conditions represent a different level of need altogether when compared with physical health needs among prisoners.

It is in light of the above that humane treatment of incarcerated persons suffering from mental illness is largely uncharted territory. Diagnosis of such ailments is often by untrained prison staff who more often than not fail to properly identify which mental ailment is suffered and subsequently, which proper treatment should ensue.

Some of the psychiatric conditions suffered by inmates include schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and last but most commonly depression. This is as reported by some human rights officers that work within Kituo Cha Sheria’s Prison Justice centres.

The presence of mental illness and access to justice do tie in together in several ways. First and foremost, it impairs their (psychiatric cases) ability to articulate themselves during self representation in court. The vulnerability of their mental frame does not allow them to anticipate or prepare well for such instances. Self representation in court requires a degree of self awareness i.e. during cross examination. Therefore one can only imagine the negative effect an afflicted mind offers in such scenarios.

Secondly, the thought process behind taking certain decisions whilst in the trial process is greatly impaired if one suffers psychiatric ailments. Decisions such as which plea to take during arraignment, plea bargaining, the decision to appeal or seek for judicial review become difficult and open to unwarranted external influence. This almost always leads to a negative outcome if such persons are not sufficiently guided.

Thirdly, such conditions generally deteriorate if left neglected and this is certainly what happens during incarceration or remand detainment.

One would say that some of these conditions indeed do develop specifically because of the inmates’ new found condition behind bars.

A key case in point depression– an internal assessment of the new found situation that the now detained inmate finds themselves in often leads to dark depressive feelings such as hopelessness, despair and discontent. Such feelings   often externally manifest themselves through  dangerous behavioural traits  such as attempts at  suicide, aggression towards fellow inmates and all in all reckless behaviour.

Knowing our own minds is difficult even at the best of times. This is more so for those suffering mental /psychiatric conditions. Assembling this insight should then encourage the appreciation of the need to assist marginalised groups of persons such as inmates and remandees- a group of persons for who mental health care is a remote luxury. Given the strong relation between mental health and criminal behavior, the public health system has a great deal to gain from better mental health treatment among inmates, particularly in reducing the costs associated with high recidivism rates.

It is our hope as Kituo Cha Sheria that during this year’s International Prisoners’ Justice Day, mental health will be an issue that is fully appreciated as a need that should be met. It is only on the basis of this realization that mentally/psychiatrically afflicted inmates will be afforded much needed   relief and sufficient care.

Stand in solidarity in support of prisoners’ human rights today!

By:

Samantha Oswago

AGCP-Kituo Cha Sheria

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Is the Law Effective in the Fight against Corruption in Kenya?

Opinion BlogIs the Law Effective in the Fight against Corruption in Kenya?

Literature review in the subject of corruption paints a picture of a phenomenon that is not only feared but also frowned upon. This may be because of its dynamic nature and ability to spread its tentacles through the social, political and economic spheres of society. Whether it is liked to a cancerous tumour or an enemy in the battle field, the bottom line is corruption is undesired. In Kenya, the conversation on the fight against corruption has lasted lifetimes. As much as corruption is not black in colour, it is one of the major attributes of the independent Kenya. Many pundits and political commentators have therefore openly attributed corruption to a bad colonial system Kenya inherited. While this may be true, fifty- years down the line, it is more of a very old and tired argument that helps Kenyans to blame other people for their mismanagement.

Historical records put the year 1956 as the first time an anti-corruption legislation were enacted in the country.  The Prevention of Corruption Act Cap 65 of the Laws of Kenya was enforced by a police unit known as the Anti-corruption squad up until 1993. This was because these were just preventive measure to protect the young nation from the dangers of corruption. However, today corruption has transformed into a vice causing irreparable damage to the country. Kenya’s economy is doing badly and she is in debt, she has institutions that are not trusted by the citizenry and a political class that either thrives in corruption or have failed in dealing with the vice.

Corruption is broadly defined as dishonest and illegal behaviour mostly by those in position of power. Acts like abuse of office, favouritism, sexual exploitation and bribery fall squarely within the domain of corruption. This article is dedicated to the law and how it has helped or may help in fighting graft.

The Constitution of Kenya (2010) is the first stop. Like any other written Constitution in the world, it lays down the governance structure, history and the aspiration of the people.

Kenya’s supreme law recognizes corruption and lays down the frame work to eradicate it. The Preamble to begin with, recognizes the aspiration of Kenyans and the values of intergrity and the rule of law. Article 1 gives sovereign power to the people of Kenya and not to State officers or people in power. Article 10 (2) further elaborates on the national principles and values of governance which include: transparency, rule of law and intergrity. Chapter Six on leadership and intergrity, sets out responsibilities for those in State offices, outlines a code of conduct, sets the rules on financial probity and restrictions on their actions. The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 ultimately is set with separation of power both vertically and horizontally that gives checks and balance that prevent abuse and ultra vires use of authority hence prevent corruption.

Is the Constitution effective? The supreme law gives the general framework and guidelines- and to that end it is very sufficient. The only gap is with the areas where Parliament is required to enact legislation. The standards of legislations from Parliament seem to have watered down the anti-corruption agenda

Kenya has signed and ratified a number of International conventions on the fight against corruption. These include UN Convention against Corruption (2003), AU Convention on Prevention and Combating corruption (2003). Further, Kenya joined its East Africa Community partners in forming the East African Association of Anti-corruption Authorities (2007). These instruments make Kenya an international player when it comes to the war against corruption. There is however need to domesticate these instruments and implement the law and recommendations.

The Parliament of Kenya has also enacted a number of legislations that help in fighting corruption. The Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission Act, sets up the anti-graft body which is meant to teach, set policy, vet public officers and prosecute corruption. However, this body and the mother law have not been effective for lack of capacity and insufficient political goodwill.

As much as the EACC is set to fight corruption it cannot do that effectively when they depend on other bodies for investigations and prosecution. The Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act (ACECA), 2003 is the parent punitive Act that deals with issues of corruption. It is a break-away from the Penal Code as there was need to maximise the sentences as the State pays more attention to these offences. The Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2009 is a legislation that was made so as to try and reverse the effects of corruption. It protects public funds from public officers who love to pilferage funds

The Leadership and Integrity Act and Public Officers Ethics Act, 2003 are meant to regulate behaviour of those entrusted with public office. They are drafted from the background that leadership is a privilege and those in leadership need to be of the highest standards of intergrity. These Acts of Parliament have however not been effective. There is need to amend the laws so as to make those in leadership transparent about their wealth businesses and interest. The legislations should also bind public officers to certain qualifications and education standards.

Government Management Act, 2004 and Public Procurement and Disposal Act, 2005 deal with public money and procurement procedure. They are meant to ensure that taxes from Kenyans are put to good use however there have been loopholes in the legislations that have been exploited and therefore the need for amendments.

 In conclusion, the law is very broad and other than a few changes it is perhaps effective. The people whose work is to implement the law need to be more effective. Paraphrasing the words of former US President Obama… “while we may not be perfect, we can desire to be more perfect, step after step, mile after mile.”

By:

Ouma Kizito Ajuong’

Advocate    

Confronting Double Marginalization: A Brief for Women Living with Disabilities in Kenya

Confronting Double Marginalization

This is a case of strengthening the weak, speaking for the voiceless; lifting the down trodden. It is about seeking a better proportionate society. It is about the values of fairness, equity and equality. As I write to the Courts of public opinion, to policy makers, to Government and today’s intellectuals; I only hope to make a case for these over-burdened and yet forgotten Kenyan population. I must state that I am not seeking sympathy or charity, rather, I  seek to illuminate the subject so much so as to illicit responses from a people who have decided to sit on their conscience and a Government that sees no harm in dragging their feet on matters women living with disability. I therefore hope that by the time I put a full stop to this paper, I will have put forth a convincing argument and offered solutions on how to confront the burden of double marginalization facing women living with disability in Kenya. Through this brief, I therefore seek to define the concept of marginalization, discuss the philosophical angle of the concept and finally look at marginalization through different subjects in the Kenyan society today.

Marginalization is defined as the treatment of a person or a group of people as insignificant or peripheral. Women living with disability are marginalized for reasons of being the “weaker sex” and for being “disabled”. There are a number of reasons advanced for this however, cultural and political reasons stand out. It has been asserted that nature and nurture breed’s power which in turn creates the majority and minority. The political solution for resolving the resultant conflict is affirmative action which unfortunately is seen as a favour rather than a right. There are other theories such as the economic theory of Neoliberalism that attribute marginalization to free market. Women with disabilities are disadvantaged due to inter-alia access and economic capacity. The theory of inclusion also recognizes the differences in the society and the cultural constrains as a result of marginalization.

International law through Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities recognizes that girls and women with disabilities face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. The preamble focuses on particular susceptibility that these women have to contend with. They include; violence, abuse, negligence and maltreatment.

The Constitution of Kenya (2010) is based on the values of equity and non-discrimination.

This is a significant improvement from Kenya’s previous Constitution under which a person could not get justice for discrimination on the basis of being a woman, person living with disability or both. The preamble of the Kenyan Constitution (2010) therefore highlights equity as a value of both governance as well as society in Kenya. The same principle is found in Article 10 (b). The Constitution of Kenya (2010) is further particular in Article 20(4) (a) on promotion and protection on the values of equity and equality. This is a qualification of Article 19(3) which gives the rights within the Constitution to individuals rather than the State. The Bill of Rights also recognizes vulnerable groups, therein women with disabilities in Article 21(3) and creates an obligation for the State to protect them.

Another departure from the colonial document is Article 27 that deals with issues of discrimination. It however further goes to specifically admonish discrimination on grounds of gender and disability in Article 27 (4). Affirmative action is a right and obligation of the State as provided for under Article 27 (6). It is meant to ensure that these marginalized groups such as women living with disabilities participate in matters of governance, education, get health services amongst others. Article 56 creates an extra safety net as it classifies minority groups while Articles 27 (4) and (5) demonizes both direct and indirect discrimination. The Parent Act of parliament is also against discrimination and protection of women with disabilities in different aspects of life.

As much as the Constitution of Kenya (2010) is very expansive on disability rights, essential issues such as decent and accessible accommodations are absent. The law is however pretty good. My argument therefore still remains that with regards to women living with disability, these laws have largely remained beautiful words on paper. The next part of this paper is to look through different aspects of their lives which include: civic and political life and participation, education, employment, health and reproductive health services and offences against women living with disabilities in Kenya (physical vulnerability).

Participation of Women with Disabilities in Civic and Political life in Kenya

Participation of women living with disability in civic and political life in Kenya has two main components thus; voting and representation. Article 38 of the Constitution of Kenya (2010) gives these people the right to vote as well as participate in politics.

The electoral management body is therefore under obligation to ensure that women with disabilities, who are Kenyan citizens and of sound minds are facilitated. Although the IEBC has always made an attempt to facilitate this, there is still a lot that needs to be done.

As a commission; the IEBC always tends to ignore women who especially have mobility challenges. It is strange that when conducting census or immunization programs, the concerned institutions are wise enough to be mobile but it is so hard when it comes to the registration of voters and voting itself. This is besides the fact that some of the polling stations are inaccessible.

The Constitution of Kenya (2010) in Article 91 demands of political parties to reflect the face of Kenya. This means that all political parties ought to embrace these women and articulate their issues. As much as most political parties have a population of PwD’s, my concern is with their cosmetic nature. Which of these political parties does disability advocacy? Which political party has presented a policy paper or an implementation framework on disability rights? Which of these political parties keeps disability institutions in check? The answer to all these questions is most likely –none; hence the need for this paper.

Representation of women with disabilities is the other side of the coin. As much as the definition of representation is amorphous, political representation always means three things, advocacy on issues, legislation and implementation. The fight for affirmative action in Kenya by women can be traced back to 1961.  This is when a few women nominated to the Legislative Assembly began the fight for greater women representation. The momentum did not really pick up till the 1990’s; then known as the great awakening. This propelled the international fora such as the Beijing conference in 1995. Through the years issues of gender equality and affirmative actions have been canvassed, however, women with disabilities have always been in the periphery. The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 is concerned about women living with disability in leadership hence reserved seats through nomination as provide for in Articles 97 (1) (c); 98, (1), (a), (b), (c) and 177 (b) (c). This is perhaps an affirmation to the statistics that no woman living with disability has ever been elected to political office. This is attributed to factors like lack of finances, violence and cultural stigma.

The bigger question is whether political representation for women living with disabilities as it is, is working. How many pieces of legislations have been sponsored by these women who have the privilege to represent the others? I am not aware of any woman with disability who is an active advocate of matters like education, health, reproductive health or sexual and gender based violence. There is a big concern that as much as these women are living with disabilities, they may not be in touch with their constituency. I appreciate patience but as Kenya lets systems grow organically, perhaps it’s time to give women living with disability a chance to elect their own leaders as opposed to nominations from political parties.

Barriers to Education for Girls and Women Living with Disability in Kenya 

Women and girls with disabilities in Kenya face a myriad of challenges which result in low numbers of the educated. Statistically, only 41% of girls with disabilities complete primary school, compared to 50% of boys and men with disabilities. The percentages get lower with regards to secondary school and higher education.

Internationally, the UN Convention on the Social, Cultural and Economic Rights recognizes the Right to Education in Article 13. Article 13 (2) prescribes primary, secondary, higher education and fundamental education for all. The convention is further elaborate on development of schools which is fit for women with disabilities. Article 24 of the UN Convention on Person with Disabilities is elaborate on the right to basic education.

This is a means to ensure dignity and a progressive life for PWDs. The State has obligation to ensure that educational institutions are accessible. The law contemplates adjustment of curriculum so as to fit PwDs. The same rights are stated in the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Article 54 (1) (b) gives the right to access educational institutions and facilities that may foster compatibility. The Basic Education Act provides for free and compulsory education in Section 24. It goes further in Section 44 to regulate special needs education which applies to girls and women with disabilities. Section 18 and 19 of the Persons with Disabilities Act also gives the right to education and free education to persons with disabilities.

In spite of these progressive laws, the path towards free compulsory education is still a work in progress. This is because of a number of reasons besides slow implementation of the laws. Women and girls living with disabilities face higher level of poverty. Researchers in this area attribute this to structural inequality in resource distribution. The few of these women who manage to get to higher education have asserted that the grants and loans by Government are still not enough for them to study comfortably. Risk of sexual abuse and violence is another challenge for women and girls with disabilities. This is because they are physically vulnerable. Women and girls living with disabilities are ‘easy prey’. Discrimination is the other challenge. Women with disabilities are discriminated against and stigmatised. There is always a feeling that PwDs and more so women are not capable of grasping academic content or leadership.  A good example is in Kenyatta University where a special seat is created because PwDs are seen as incapable of leadership.

Cultural issues also come to play. There are many who still believe that persons with disabilities are either an embarrassment or a bad omen. This coupled with the patriarchal attitude that a woman has no place in school gives women with disabilities very few chances. Physical access, accommodation and transport are the other challenges. These refer to halls of residence which are inaccessible with no washrooms, classes and hostels with no ramps or elevators, and lack of transport to and from classes. These make education a hard task for these people. Lastly, there is the challenge of lack of equipment. This mostly affects visually impaired persons in the name of braille materials.

The jury is still out on whether to integrate schools or to have specials schools. The pros and cons however keep the debate going; women with disabilities need to be educated. There are children still on the streets and women who are ambitious but have no way to get an education and get ahead in life.

Decent work, Employment and Social Protection for Women with Disabilities in Kenya

According to the Kenya National Survey for Persons with Disabilities the number of persons with disabilities stands at 1.7 million. The rate of disability in Kenya is 4.6% and women take up 19% of this population. This is relatively the number of Kenyans who are not just discriminated against but denied employment and a chance to make a living as women with disabilities have an employment rate of 29% compared to 50% for their male counterparts.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 in Article 54 (2) provides for affirmative action when dealing with matters employment. The Government has an obligation to ensure that at least 5% of every elective and nominated positions are filled by PWDs. Article 41 is further elaborate on labour rights which also apply to these women. The International Convention on Social Cultural and Economic Rights discusses work and employment as a right which should be granted to citizens without discrimination as stated in Articles 3 and 6. Work and employment for PwDs are also covered under Article 25 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This instrument enumerates the rights to work to include: inter- alia, prohibition of discrimination, safety and healthy working conditions, just and favourable working conditions, reasonable accommodation and access to labour unions and industrial action.

The Persons Living with Disabilities Act is also very elaborate on employment. It is a domestication of the international instrument. The Act via Section 12 through to 17 touches on aspects of employment for PWD’s. The Employment Act, Occupational Safety Act and the Industrial Relation Act are in consonance with the idea of work and employment of women with disabilities.

Work and employment for women with disability has had an interesting history. For a long time, PwDs have only been known for vocational jobs. As much as the attitude is gradually changing, there are a number of challenges. Accessibility is one of the major challenges that women with disabilities face. As it is with educational institutions, work places are not accessible hence a big problem for employment of these women. The other challenge is the cultural attitude that women living with disability cannot perform certain duties. Studies show that employers are always very delicate with PwDs and avoid giving them tasks that are assumed to be difficult. The other challenge is lack of equipments which mostly affect those with visual impairment. These can be changed through implementation of the law and working progressively.

Health and Reproductive Health for Women with Disabilities in Kenya  

While health may refer to a state of no illness or injury, reproductive health refers to a state of complete mental, physical, emotional and social well-being in relation to maternal condition, sexuality and reproduction. Reproductive health is broad to include; new born babies health, family planning and STIs. Women with disabilities, particularly in developing regions suffer from HIV/AIDS and maternal conditions. Those who are of a reproductive age are at a higher risk of adverse pregnancies compared to women without disabilities.

Women with disabilities are also susceptible to negative health indicators such as obesity, mental distress and asthma. Health and reproductive health are both progressive rights within the law. As the saying goes health is wealth-the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 advocates for the highest attainable standards of health in Article 43 (1) (a). The framers of the constitution were aware of the GDP of Kenya; however, there is need to always be progressive.

The International Convention on Social, Cultural and Economic Rights through Article 12 (2) (a) advocates on reduction of still births. The State has obligation to ensure that both the new borns or mothers are protected and deaths are reduced.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities does not directly discuss reproductive health however; Article 25 is broadly dedicated to health which ought to be free and accessible to PWDs. The legal instrument also touches on the right to privacy under Article 22. Health is also a crucial component of the Persons with Disabilities Act as indicated by Section 20 of the Act.

In spite of the law, there are a number of challenges that face women with disabilities in Kenya.  There is a sense of “shame” that comes with women with disabilities.

Many people like to assume that women with disabilities do not engage in sexual intercourse and therefore do not want to engage in these conversations. There is also a bigger challenge when it comes to those women with visual impairment or hearing impairment. This is because most hospitals are not equipped or have personnel who have skills to communicate or understand these people.

These issues are therefore always ignored and swept under the carpet. There is a lot of work that is needed if Kenya was to achieve providing reproductive health rights for women with disability.

Violence against Women and Girls Living with Disabilities in Kenya

Global statistics indicate that women are generally exposed to violence as opposed to the men. Women living with disability carry a bigger burden due to stigmatization and vulnerability due to their disability. The kinds of violence that these women face include; isolation, rape, defilement and forced medical procedures. This is against the subject matter of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Violence and Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW may not generally talk about women with disabilities however; there is a general obligation to protect women. The same goes with the other international instrument such as the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 and the Sexual Offences Act are also not particular on women living with disability; however, the spirit is to protect women from violence and sexual exploitation.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Through this paper, I have gone through the idea of marginalization of women living with disability. I have delved into the philosophy, the laws and challenges that come with confronting marginalization. I may not be conclusive however, it touches on the main areas of concern and the following are my recommendations:-

  • The concept of mainstreaming the law- women with disabilities touch on different aspects of life hence the need to make sure that there are always specific laws to protect them. The Sexual Offences Act, the Health Act, may be amended to narrow down to sexual violence against women with disabilities and of course impose a bigger penalty.
  • The Constitution of Kenya, (2010) and the Disability Act need to be implemented. The Government through relevant institutions need to develop a plan and statistics.
  • There is also need to do advocacy awareness and advocacy on matters affecting women living with disability in Kenya. This comes from the space that there is always room to improvement.
  • County Governments also ought to take an active role in demanding for these Rights. They are responsible for taking services to the people and hence push the agenda of women living with disability in Kenya.
  • The functions and budgetary allocation of the NationalCouncil for Persons with Disabilities should also be increased to enable decentralization and work. Part of the complaint has always been that the funds are not enough to work on matters women with disabilities.
  • Political parties and international players may also be brought to the fold to ensure that these matters are not just for persons with disabilities but institutionalized.
  • Learning from the best experiences is also another recommendation that may help in advancing the disability agenda. Kenya should be ready to learn from other jurisdictions such as India .

By:

Ouma Kizito Ajuong’

Advocate

Knowing Your Community Land Rights

Opinion Blog

Recognition, Protection and Registration of Community Land Rights

Community land is land which vests in and is held by communities identified on the basis of ethnicity, culture or similar community of interest under the tenure systems of either; (a) customary (b) freehold (c) leasehold (d) or such other tenure system recognized under a written law.

Every person has the right, either individually or in association with others, to acquire and own property of any description in any part of Kenya, in accordance with Article 40 of the Kenyan Constitution.

Customary land rights, including those of community land, have equal force and effect in law with freehold or leasehold rights acquired through allocation, registration or transfer for example, subject to Article 40 (3) of the Constitution and the Land Act, no interest in, or right over community land may be compulsorily acquired by the State except in accordance with the law, for a public purpose, and upon prompt payment of just compensation to the person or persons, in full or by negotiated settlement.

To register a community land, the Cabinet Secretary of Lands, in consultation with the respective county governments, develop and publish in the Gazette a comprehensive adjudication programme to ensure that the process of documenting, mapping and developing of the inventory of community land is transparent, cost effective and participatory with the members of the community.

The person responsible for the registration of community land is the Community Land Registrar.

The process of registering community land involves the Cabinet Secretary of Lands by a notice in the Gazette; appoint an adjudication officer in respect of every community registration unit to facilitate, in consultation with the respective county governments, the recording of community land claims, demarcation of community land and delineation of boundaries. Upon adjudication, the title relating to community land is issued to the registered community by the Community Land Registrar.

Community land maybe held as; communal land; family or clan land; reserve land; and any other category of land recognized under a written law.

Administration and management of community land

A registered community must have a community assembly which shall consist of all adult members of the community. The community assembly shall elect between seven and fifteen members of the community assembly to constitute the community Land Management Committee for the administration and management of the community land.

Any decision of a registered community to dispose of or otherwise alienate community land is binding if it is supported by at least two thirds of the community assembly, while all other decisions of the registered community shall be by a simple majority of the members present in a meeting.

Nature of community land title

Upon registration of a community land, the community is issued with a Certificate of Title which gives the community the absolute ownership of that land together with all rights and privileges attached to the land.

This certificate is considered by courts as factual evidence that the person named as proprietor of the land is the absolute and indefeasible owner

Conversion of community land

A registered community shall, before the conversion of registered community land into either public, private land or any other category of land, seek and obtain approval from two thirds of the community assembly for instance;

  • Community land may be converted to public land by compulsory acquisition; transfer; or surrender.
  • Community land may be converted to private land through transfer; or allocation by the registered community.
  • Public land may be converted to community land by allocation by the National Land Commission in accordance with the Land Act, 2012 (No. 6 of 2012).
  • Private land may be converted to community land by transfer; surrender; operation of the law in relation to illegally acquired community land; or operation of any other written law.

Special rights and entitlements in the community land

A registered community may upon application and with approval of the members of the community assembly, allocate part of its registered community land to a member or a group of members of the community for exclusive use and occupation for such period as the registered community shall determine.

These occupations may include (a) farming areas; (b) settlement areas; (c) community conservation areas; (d) access and rights of way; (e) cultural and religious sites; (f) urban development; or (g) any other purpose as may be determined by the community, county government or national government for the promotion of public interest.

However, an individual entitlement shall not be superior to community title in any way.

Environment and natural resources management

Natural resources found on community land shall be used and managed sustainably and productively; for the benefit of the whole community including future generations; with transparency and accountability; and on the basis of equitable sharing of accruing benefits among the community members.

Settlement of disputes relating to community land

For purposes of settling disputes and conflicts involving community land, registered communities are encouraged to use alternative methods of dispute resolution mechanisms including traditional dispute and conflict resolution mechanisms and internal dispute resolution mechanisms set out in the respective community by-laws.

The methodologies used in dispute resolution over community land include,

  • Mediation
  • Arbitration
  • Judicial proceedings

 

By:

Jack Odiwa, Local Expert-AJS

AGCP-Kituo Cha Sheria

 

Reparations NOW: Highlighting the Right to Truth

truth reparations 1

Reparations NOW: Highlighting the Right to Truth

On 24th March 2018, the world marked International Day for the Right to Truth concerning gross human rights violations and for the dignity of victims. Civil society organizations under the umbrella network of the Kenya Transitional Justice Network (KTJN), together with the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, the Attorney General’s office and development partners convened together with victims and survivors of past human rights violations in Kenya post independence to date.

The day provided an opportunity for all stakeholders to promote national dialogue on the reparations agenda and draw the society to the truth behind human rights violations that have been committed over the years and what Kenyans need to do as a nation to promote, protect and fulfill human rights.

The right to the truth here in Kenya is primarily enshrined through Article 35 of the Constitution on access to information. Other critical articles include Article 47 on fair administrative action, Article 49 on the right of arrested persons and Article 50 on fair hearing. The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Report (TJRC) remains one of the most decisive efforts in achieving the right to truth. Through the TJRC Report, the right to the truth has been invoked in light of the thousands of cases of extra judicial executions, the hundreds of enforced disappearances, victims of torture who remain unrepaired in places like Mount Elgon in Western Kenya, victims of sexual violence from various epochs particularly at the hands of security forces.

The right to the truth implies knowing the full and complete truth as to events that transpired, their specific circumstances, the identities of those who participated (and directed), knowing the circumstances those violations took place and why? To understand this, one only has to look at the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Report (TJRC Report) Volume 2A pages 221 to 366, in a bid to uncover the truth.

Unfortunately, many of the victims and survivors of gross human rights violations do not know the truth behind the violations done to them. Over 1,000 women who were raped in the 2007/2008 post election violence period and subsequent general elections by state security officers are among the many survivors seeking justice and compensation against these sexual violations.

In 2017, KTJN through the leadership of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) presented a policy proposal for reparations of historical injustices to the Office of the Attorney General. The policy proposal provides a theoretical framework and guidelines for operationalization of the Reparations for Historical Injustices Fund subsequently established by President Uhuru Kenyatta in his March, 2015 State of the Nation Address.

The purpose of the Reparations for Historical Injustice Fund is to be the institutional framework for implementation of a program that provides reparations to victims of human rights violations committed or condoned by the State between 12th December 1963 and 28th February 2008.  The funds will also help in restoring the dignity of victims through acknowledging the wrongdoing, the harm suffered and the state responsibility to promote, protect and fulfill human rights.

The main objective of the policy is to guide implementation of a comprehensive reparations program that provides adequate, effective, accessible and prompt reparation that is; to the greatest extent possible, proportional to the gravity of the violation and the harm suffered, while integrating existing structures and programs to ensure efficient, transparent and accountable delivery of services to victims and the broader Kenyan public.

Implement the reparations fund…

Survivors of past human rights violations are therefore, urging the government to fast track the adoption and implementation of the reparations fund. Implementation of the fund will assist in alleviating the pain and suffering the survivors have endured over the years.

Faith Ochieng’

Program Manager

AGCP- Kituo Cha Sheria.

 

Know your Labour Rights Vlogs Series

Are you employed or looking for employment? Then this is for you!

All you need to know about your labour rights!

You may watch your labour rights explained Haki Vlogs Series HERE>>

Termination of Labour

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0EPwe3csqg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5ptiNo_DzU

  • An employer is required to give reason of termination to the worker. If the employer fails to do this, the termination will be considered unfair.
  • Before terminating the employment of an employee or summarily dismissing an employee, the employer should hear and consider any explanations or reasons which the employee may give.

Reasons for Termination

For specific reasons

  • The employee is incapable of performing the job
  •  After receiving a final warning letter, the employee continues with misconduct or indiscipline
  • The employee suffers from prolonged illness that makes him/her unable to perform his/her normal duties

Summary Dismissal

An employee may be summarily dismissed for gross misconduct. Gross misconduct includes:

  • Absence from the workplace without permission
  • Being drunk at the workplace
  • Neglecting to perform any assigned work
  • Use of abusive language or behaviour in the workplace
  • Failing to obey a lawful and proper command that is within the employee’s scope of work
  • Arrested for a crime that can lands the employee in jail and is not released within 14 days
  • Committing a criminal offense against the employer or his/her property
  • Summary dismissal takes place without a termination notice. It is immediate.

Redundancy

  • This means the loss of employment where the services of an employee are no longer needed
  • Before declaring an employee redundant, the employer must meet the following conditions:

The employer must notify the trade union if the employee belongs to one and the labour office in that area. In the notification, which is given one month before, the employer must include the reasons for the redundancy.

If the employee is not a member of a trade union, the employer notifies the employee personally in writing and the labour officer;

Before declaring an employee redundant, the employer has to consider the work experience, ability, job group and reliability of the employee

  • The employer should give the employee one month notice or one month’s salary in place of notice
  • The employer should pay for the remaining leave days in cash
  • The employer should pay the employee severance pay of 15 days salary for every year worked

Termination Notice

If you are paid daily – either the employer or the employee can terminate the contract at the end of any day without notice.

If you are paid periodically at intervals less than a month e.g every 2 weeks or 3 weeks – either the employer or employee can terminate the contract by giving notice in writing equivalent to the intervals of payment. So if you are paid every 2 weeks, give a 2 week notice in writing of termination of employment.

If you are paid at intervals of one month or exceeding one month – either the employer or employee can give a 28-day notice in writing of termination of employment.

However, if you have a contract that clearly states when your services end or the period needed to give a termination notice for your contract – then you should follow what your contract states.

If an employee who receives notice of termination is not able to understand the notice, the employer should orally explain the notice to the employee in a language the employee understands. The employee should have another employee or union representative of his/her choice present during this explanation.

If an employee or employer terminates a contract without notice, then the following happens:

  • Employer- must pay the employee what he/she would have earned during the notice period. e.g. If you are fired without notice, your employer must pay you one month full salary
  • Employee- if you decide to end your contract without giving notice to your employer – then you will pay your employer what he/she would have paid you during the notice period. e.g. If you leave without notice, you must pay your employer one month full salary

Grievance Procedure and Institutions to approach

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3q6Ng9t2A9M

  • If an employee is not a member of a trade union, he/she should present their complaint or grievance to the immediate supervisor.
  • If there is no action taken, the employee should set an appointment with management.
  • If the matter remains unresolved, then the employee should file a complaint at the nearest labour office.
  • However sometimes the employee is forced to go straight to the labour office or the Industrial Court.
  • If an employee has been dismissed unfairly, he /she should present a complaint to a labour office within 3 months of the date of dismissal.
  • The labour officer will give an opportunity to both the employer and employee to give their side of the story and give recommendations on how to settle the dispute.
  • The employee also has a right to go to the Industrial Court to present his complaint. If the complaint is because of a contractual agreement, the complaint should be filed in court within 6 years. If it is because of injury at work, then the complaint should be filed within 3 years.
  • The employee must be able to show that he/she was unfairly terminated and the employer must be able to show the justification for termination.
  • An employee under probation or who has been summarily dismissed while under probation cannot complain at the labour office or at the Industrial Court.

NOTE: At the Industrial Court you do not need an advocate to represent you.  You can be represented by a trade union representative or you can appear in person ( self-represent). You can also hire an advocate if you want.

Remedies for wrongful dismissal and unfair termination

  • Where there was no notice given, the employee is entitled to the salary he/she would have earned had he/she been given notice
  • Where an employee is dismissed before the contract is over and the contract was such that the employee gets paid at the end of the contract and after completing his/her services, the employee is entitled to:-
  1. payment for work done until the time he/she was dismissed
  2. payment for losses incurred as a result of the dismissal
  • payment for losses arising between the date of dismissal and the date of expiry of the notice period
  1. money he/she would have earned had notice been given

Where an employee is unfairly dismissed, he/she may:

  1. be reinstated and continues to work like as if he/she was never dismissed
  2. not be returned to his/her original position but may be given similar or suitable work and be paid the same wages (re-engaged)

Before any recommendations are given, the labour officer or Industrial Court consider the following:

  • the wishes of the employee
  • the circumstances in which the termination took place, including if the employee caused or contributed to the termination
  • if it is practical for the employee to be reinstated or re-engaged
  • the employee’s length of service with the employer
  • the reasonable expectation of the employee as to the length of time for which his/her employment might have continued had he or she not been terminated.
  • the opportunities available to the employee for securing similar or suitable employment with another employer
  • the value of any severance payable by law
  • the right of the employee to claim for any unpaid wages or expenses
  • any expenses reasonably incurred by the employee as a consequence of the termination
  • any conduct of the employee which to any extent caused or contributed to the termination
  •  any compensation, including ex gratia payment paid by the employer and received by the employee.

Sexual Harassment

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wHdBmnGdXU

An employee is sexually harassed if the employer or a representative of that employer or a co-worker:-

(a) directly or indirectly requests that employee for sexual intercourse, sexual contact or any other form of sexual activity.

The sexual request may contain:

  • promise of preferential treatment in employment e.g if you have sex with me, I will give you a promotion
  • Threat of harmful or negative treatment in employment e.g if you do not let me touch your buttocks, I will ensure that you do not go on leave or I will make your life here a living hell
  • Threat about the present or future employment status of the employee e.g if you do not kiss me now, I will fire you
  • uses language whether written or spoken of a sexual nature
  • shows physical behaviour of a sexual nature that is unwelcome or offensive and which affects employment, job performance or job satisfaction.

An employer who employs twenty or more employees should have a sexual harassment policy at the workplace.

Sexual Harassment Policy

This Policy will contain:

  • Definition of sexual Harassment
  • A statement explaining that;
  • every employee is entitled to employment that is free of sexual harassment
  • the employer shall take steps to ensure that no employee is subjected to sexual harassment;
  • the employer shall take disciplinary measures against any person guilty of sexual harassment
  • how complaints of sexual harassment may be brought to the attention of the employer
  • the employer will not disclose the name of the complainant or the circumstances related to the complaint except during investigations or if the employee wants to take disciplinary action

Judgement

Anyone found guilty of sexual harassment will be imprisonment for not less than three years or will have to pay a fine of not less than one hundred thousand shillings or both imprisonment and payment of a fine.

For more information on your labour rights write to info@kituochasheria.or.ke mhaki@kituochasheria.or.ke or SMS 0700777333

Kituo cha Sheria

We Care for Justice

 

RAPE NOT A ‘COMMON GOOD’-Maslaha

Opinion Blog

This is in response to a sad story in Wajir where community leaders used Maslaha, an alternative form of dispute resolution, to settle a case where a 15 year old girl was repeatedly gang raped for 2 days by 3 men. [Daily Nation, 4th March 2018- https://www.nation.co.ke/counties/wajir/Goats-used-as-fines-for-rape-in-Wajir/3444790-4328392-nnkfxcz/index.html

Maslaha

The Legal term of Maslaha within Islamic Jurisprudence means ‘the common good’ or ‘in the public interest.’ This is unbelievable because now the question would be, ‘which public?’

Although Article 11 of the Constitution of Kenya recognises culture as ‘the foundation of the nation and as the cumulative civilization of the Kenyan people and nation’, rape is a crime against the victim and against humanity at large.

A person is deemed to commit the offence termed rape if – (a) he or she intentionally and unlawfully commits an act which causes penetration with his or her genital organs; (b) the other person does not consent to the penetration; or (c) the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind. (3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may be enhanced to imprisonment for life.

A crime of rape is an injury not only against the affected individual(s) but also against the society. Crimes are prosecuted by the state, which in so doing protects the social and constitutional rights of all citizens. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 recognizes the need for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to be employed in seeking justice rather than the much hostile court process. However, crimes like murder, rape, robbery with violence are crimes against humanity and as such the offenders/perpetuators must face the full force of the law and must not be accorded an opportunity to get away with their inhuman acts through the guise of traditional norm of ADR.

This is due to the fact that such traditional and customary agreements are repugnant to justice and morality and pursuant to Article 2(4) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 which categorically states that ‘’Any law including Customary law that is inconsistent with this constitution is void to the extent of the inconsistency, and any act or omission in contravention of this constitution is invalid.’’ Therefore, at a minimum, the prosecution should be consulted before having the reconciliation agreements and customary laws applied in resolving the criminal cases.

The Criminal Procedure Code under Section 176 provides:

‘In all cases the court may promote reconciliation and encourage and facilitate the settlement in an amicable way of proceedings for common assault, or for any other offence of a personal or private nature not amounting to felony, and not aggravated in degree, on terms of payment of compensation or other terms approved by the court, and may thereupon order the proceedings to be stayed or terminated.’

The Director of Public Prosecutions is the custodian of prosecutorial powers. Prosecution of offences is a public policy concern, and in preserving this power to preserve the public interest, he/she cannot be by passed in negotiations concerning charges against an accused person as in the case of Juma Faraji Serenge alias Juma Hamisi v Republic [2007] eKLRMaraga, J. (the current Chief Justice) in his ruling stated:

‘To the best of my knowledge, other than in cases of minor assault in which a court can promote reconciliation under section 176…. of the Criminal Procedure Code and such minor cases a complainant is not allowed to withdraw a criminal case for whatsoever reason. In any case the real complainant in all criminal cases, and especially so felonies, is the state. The victims of such crimes are nominal complainants. And the state, as the complainant, cannot be allowed to withdraw any such case because the victim has forgiven the accused as happened in this case or any such other reason. The state can only be allowed to withdraw a criminal case under section 87A of the Criminal procedure Code or enter a nolle prosequi when it has no evidence against the accused or on some ground of public interest. And even then when it has convinced the court that the case should be so withdrawn”.

Maslaha, which is an alternative form of dispute resolution mechanism, is recognized under Article 159 (2) (c) of the Constitution which provides that:

‘In exercising judicial authority, the courts and tribunals shall be guided by the following principles—

(c) Alternative forms of dispute resolution including reconciliation, mediation, arbitration and traditional dispute resolution mechanisms shall be promoted, subject to clause (3)

Clause (3) of the same article states:

‘Traditional dispute resolution mechanisms shall not be used in a way that:

(a) Contravenes the Bill of Rights;

(b) is repugnant to justice and morality or results in outcomes that are repugnant to justice or morality; or

(c) is inconsistent with this Constitution or any written law.

It should always be remembered that customary law is unwritten law but just a set of rules that exists in one’s mind and are passed on from one generation to another. This is due to the fact that there is nothing like customary law but what we have are customary laws as every community have a different set of beliefs all together. It is also imperative to note that despite the fact that the victims of offenses like rape subscribe to various customary laws that do not consider that injustice, they are still under the provisions of the constitution of Kenya 2010 and fully enjoy the rights of the said constitution. Therefore, the application of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms must be consistent with the Constitution and the written law of the land and check to ensure justice to both the offenders and the victims.

Equally, the Judicature Act in section 3(2) stipulates and provides that the customary law is only applicable to civil cases. It states that:

‘The High Court, the Court of Appeal and all subordinate courts shall be guided by African customary law in civil cases in which one or more of the parties is subject to it or affected by it, so far as it is applicable and is not repugnant to justice and morality or inconsistent with any written law, and shall decide all such cases according to substantial justice without undue regard to technicalities of procedure and without undue delay.”

Therefore where the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are to be used in the criminal matters, it is limited to misdemeanours and should not be considered on felonies.

By:

Jack Odiwa, Local Expert-AJS

AGCP-Kituo Cha Sheria