On May 3, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights released an exhaustive report on the state of the country’s sexual and reproductive rights. And the Commission stated, in no uncertain terms, that the Kenyan government has much work to do to ensure that the country’s people are protected and respected when it comes to their sexual and reproductive health. This is one of the first reports from a national human rights institution on these issues in the region.
The roots of this expansive report first took hold years ago, when the Center and its partner, the Federation of Women Lawyers—Kenya (FIDA Kenya), began collecting evidence and documenting violations of human rights. That work ultimately produced two vital fact-finding reports.
- Failure to Deliver: Violations of Women’s Human Rights in Kenyan Health Facilities (2007) exposes the abuse and discrimination that pregnant women seeking prenatal services were suffering in hospitals, such as physical and verbal abuse, the detention of mothers and their newborn babies when they didn’t have money to pay the bill, and inferior service because of staffing and medical equipment shortages.
- At Risk: Rights Violations of HIV-Positive Women in Kenyan Health Facilities (2008) documented the plight of women living with HIV who were consistently discriminated against in health facilities, where they were denied medical services and medication, received inadequate information about HIV transmission, and had their privacy violated.
From these reports, the Center and the FIDA Kenya filed a complaint in 2009 with the Commission, asking it to conduct a public inquiry into the violations of women’s rights when seeking reproductive health care. We also presented expert testimony before the Commission and made a written submission. The result is a sweeping report that stretches more than 100 pages and covers family planning, maternal health, sexual violence, LGBT issues, the sexual and reproductive rights of marginalized people, and funding for sexual and reproductive health.
Among the many recommendations, the Center was especially pleased to see the following:
- Maternal Care—The Commission calls for the government to implement the U.N. Human Rights Council resolution on maternal mortality (for which the Center played an instrumental role in developing), address maternal deaths from a human rights perspective, and establish mechanisms through which women can file complaints against health care facilities for being mistreated.
- Safe Abortion—The Commission asks the government to train police officers on abortion law so they don’t harass providers who provide safe, legal abortion services or women seeking those services. The government also must make abortion services affordable to all and available in health care settings of every kind.
- Decriminalization—The Commission calls for the decriminalization of sex work, same-sex relationships, and the transmission of HIV.
The Commission’s recommendations will be crucial in ensuring that the government recognizes the seriousness of its shortcomings and takes the necessary steps to remedy them. The Center will monitor Kenya’s progress closely and stand ready to hold the government accountable for the protection of fundamental human rights.