06.15.2023 – (PRESS RELEASE) NAIROBI Today, the Reproductive Health Sector in Kenya launched the Nakuru Strategy. In June 2022, the reproductive health sector convened in Nakuru to develop strategies towards the full implementation of Article 26 (4) of Kenya’s Constitution on access to safe and legal abortion and Article 43 (1) (a) on the right to reproductive health care. The Sector charted a path to advance reproductive rights anchored on four pillars of (1) Legal & Policy (2) Political Mobilization (3) Health Systems Strengthening (4) Community Mobilization & Movement Building. As a result, the Nakuru Strategy came to life.
Each year, approximately 2,600 women die from unsafe abortion in Kenya, an average of seven deaths daily. A quarter of the estimated 465,000 induced abortions women seek out in Kenya annually result in severe complications and hospitalizations. This is attributed to a dearth of information on access to safe and legal abortion in the country.
Further, the Nakuru Strategy builds on seminal jurisprudence on access to safe and legal abortion from the High Court of Kenya. In 2019, the High Court of Kenya in Nairobi, in the JMM case, ruled that victims of sexual violence can access safe and legal abortion within the provisions of Article 26 (4) of the Constitution. JMM, an adolescent girl aged fourteen years was sexually abused and became pregnant and she sought an unsafe abortion. JMM developed various complications from the unsafe abortion and eventually died because of the complications. The five-judge bench found that JMM, as a survivor of sexual violence, had the right to access safe and legal abortion. The court also found that the Ministry of Health violated JMM’s rights through the unlawful withdrawal of the Standards and Guidelines for reducing morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion in Kenya.
In 2022, the High Court of Kenya in Malindi, in a landmark judgment in the PAK case, established the gaps in alignment of the Penal Code restrictions on access to safe and legal abortion vis a vis Article 26 (4) of the Constitution. PAK, aged sixteen years from Kilifi County, experienced pregnancy complications and sought medical care where a trained clinical officer attended to her. While still receiving treatment at the facility, police officers stormed the clinic and arrested PAK alongside the clinical officer. The police also forced PAK to undergo medical examination to obtain evidence to prove an alleged offence of abortion. The judgement is the subject of an Appeal.
“The Nakuru Strategy seeks to address the gaps that hinder the full implementation of Article 26 (4) of the Constitution which recognizes access to safe and legal abortion for women and girls such as JMM and PAK,” said Martin Onyango, Associate Director for Legal Strategies-Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “It is concerning that the government of Kenya has failed to put the necessary structures in place despite the constitutional provisions and the guidance from the courts. The Nakuru Strategy, therefore, has identified strategies with which sector members and allies can engage with the government agencies and other key stakeholders to build stronger reproductive rights protections for women and girls. We urge the government of Kenya to fully implement the Constitution to address preventable deaths.”
“This is a key moment for reproductive health sector members and allies to galvanize efforts to address maternal mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortions,” said Victor Rasugu the Executive Director for Network of Adolescents and Youth of Africa. “The Nakuru Strategy is the right step towards attaining zero maternal deaths in the country and we call upon the government and key allies to support the implementation of the strategy.”
Center for Reproductive Rights: [email protected]