The National Gender and Equality Commission has decried rising cases of violence, harm, exploitation, neglect, trafficking and abuse of children.
According to a report by the National Crime Research Centre 2020, there was a 205.6 percent increase in the total number of cases of violations of children’s rights between 2017 and 2019.
The report indicates that defilement, child neglect, child custody and child abandonment are the most common forms of violations facing children in Kenya.
Commission Chairperson Dr. Joyce M. Mutinda says a national consultative meeting convened by the Commission in July 2020 found that pressures from COVID-19 containment measures contributed to an increase in the number of children forced to engage in labour to support their families.
“Such actions often contribute to a child’s vulnerability including sexual violation. This meeting noted that online child abuse is an increasingly emerging phenomenon in rural Kenya. Further, the extent of participation of children on issues that affect them is less documented,” She said.
Dr Mutinda made the observations as Kenya joined the African continent in commemorating the Day of the African Child (DAC), which is marked every year on the 16th day of June.
She said the Country has made significant progress in the development and promotion of legislation that advances the rights of the Kenyan child.
They include the Children’s Act 2001, the Sexual Offences Act 2006, the Borstal Institutions Act 2009, the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act 2010, the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act 2015, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011, among others.
Mutinda further said that policies and action plans to advance the rights of the child among them the National Plan of Action against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, the National Plan of Action for Children in Kenya, Guidelines for Alternative Care, and the National Family Promotion and Protection Policy are also in place.
“To prevent abuse and promote and protect children’s rights, the Government has put up structures such as the National Administration of Justice Special Taskforce on children’s affairs; Child Protection Units (CPUs) in police stations, and Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, and a children’s division and anti-FGM unit at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions just to mention a few,” She said.
Mutinda however said some of the existing laws and policies are not harmonized and in many cases are contradictory.
“The Children’s Act (2001) for instance is yet to be harmonized to reflect the spirit and letter of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. The more Parliament procrastinates on the amendment process of this and other Statutes passed before the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010, the more Kenyan children continue to suffer,” She said.
She urged Parliament to protect and safeguard the rights and welfare of children by passing the necessary legislation as soon as possible.