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INTERNATIONAL DAY OF AFRICAN CHILD

Child-friendly justice system key to protection against violence

Kenya has made great strides in establishing mechanism to protect children from violence.

In Summary

• As we mark the International Day of the African Child, it is significant to go back to the drawing board and evaluate our contribution in securing the future of our children.

• This year's theme, ‘Access to a child- friendly justice system in Africa’ , is timely as it is paramount for government to invest in setting up of more specialised children’s courts.

Kenya is a signatory to the UN convention on the rights of the child and the African Charter on the right and welfare of the child,.

These are commitments towards response mechanism and prevention of all forms of violence against children.

Notably, Kenya has made great strides in establishing mechanism to protect children from violence. However, to some extent, it has been difficult to translate this vital obligation to the actual protection of children from gender-based violence in most parts of the country as noticed and reported in different media outlets.

 

As a result, there is need to enhance implementation of these mechanisms and ensure all children are protected from all negative consequences of violence.

During this Covid- 19 global pandemic — where most children are confined at home due to closure of schools  — there is a greater risk of young ones experiencing gender-based violence. This ranges from defilement, child labour, forced/early marriages to extensively harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, especially for girls in the hard to reach areas.  

Conversely, it is a challenge for such cases to be reported because in Kenya, for instance, justice systems are a strenuous process to go through. 

Children will also expect their parents/guardians to report on their behalf. Unfortunately, most of the perpetrators are close family members who might even include the very same parents.  In addition, violence such as sexual offences maybe dealt with informal systems such as mediation at home and in most cases, if not all, they do not secure justice for the violated child. 

Dandelion Africa is a community based organisation aimed at increasing awareness and responsiveness by the community on gender-based violence, So working for Jukumu Langu, a project being implemented in Baringo and Nakuru county, we have retaliated that it is prudent to solve gender-based violence through a survivor-centered approach. 

 This means that prioritising the rights, needs and input of the violated child should be the yardstick when it comes to access to justice. The child should be able to have access to appropriate, accessible and timely services, including health care, psychological support and legal services.

As we mark the International Day of the African Child, an annual global event celebrated on June 16,  it is significant to go back to the drawing board and evaluate our contribution in securing the future of our children by creating a conducive environment where they are protected and their human rights upheld accordingly.

 

This way, we will truly commemorate the children killed during the Soweto uprising in South Africa and to recognise the courage of the students who marched for their right to an education.

This year's theme dubbed ‘Access to a child- friendly justice system in Africa’  is timely as it is paramount for the government to invest in setting up of more specialised children’s courts accessible to those in rural areas as well and have in place police units committed in dealing with offences against children.

Importantly, introduce child rights focused modules in police training programmes, while developing guidelines for proper use of force, where necessary,  when handling an offender who happens to be a child.

It is regrettable that we’ve lost children through police brutality and excessive use of force, totally disregarding human rights provisions.

In Kenya, children courts are established under Section 73 of the Children Act. They are mandated to hear charges against children except for those in murder or where a child has been charged with persons aged over 18.

 There is an urgent need to build and develop capacities of our police force in this area.

Finally, can we join hands together to ensure that community based protection systems and other stakeholders are still effective to protect children?  

I’m urging the government to integrate gender-based violence risk mitigation in all aspects of Covid-19 pandemic response and prevention.  

If we do not do this now, we should be ready to address secondary consequences of this pandemic, which will definitely include psychologically traumatised children. The best we can do is to protect the interest of the child before it is too late.

Nderitu is a monitoring and evaluation officer, Dandelion Africa