On 22nd October 2020 - the United States (US) Health and Human Services Administration jointly together with the US State Department issued a joint statement dubbed the Geneva Consensus Declaration. The joint statement was co-sponsored by the states of Hungary, Brazil, Egypt, Uganda and Indonesia and further co-signed by twenty-six states among them Kenya. This document is part of an ongoing global campaign by a number of states to undermine women’s sexual reproductive health rights already recognized and adopted by the United Nations and relevant treaties and conventions for which Kenya is party to and has domesticated as guided by Article 2(5) and 2(6) of the Constitution.
Whilst not binding, the joint statement nevertheless has the unfortunate effect of creating unnecessary legal, policy and service delivery hurdles and prevailing confusion that will obstruct interventions by Kenya to address the persistently high numbers of women and girls dying due to pregnancy-related complications, particularly unsafe abortion. Kenya’s Constitution obliges the state to protect the reproductive rights of women, including the right to safe abortion under Article 26(4), a right that was also recently upheld by the Courts in Constitutional Petition No. 266 of 2015.
We call upon the Government of Kenya to refer to recent commitments made by the President of Kenya at the ICPD+25 conference that was hosted in Nairobi in 2019 that centered on our supreme Constitution and International Human Rights Law which call upon the state to promote, protect and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights to the highest attainable standards. Indeed, we also refer to His Excellency’s reaffirmations at the Women Deliver forum to the women and girls of this nation. In addition, we refer to affirmations made during the UN High Level Meeting on UHC - a key development agenda for Kenya- that reiterated the integral role of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights within the UHC Framework and in driving the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As NGOs working on health and women’s rights, we are greatly concerned at our country’s endorsement of this statement which threatens to erode our progress towards protecting the rights enshrined in our Constitution. It significantly goes against the spirit and intent of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as espoused in Chapter 4. As representatives of communities we work with we assert that Kenya’s endorsement of this statement poises the country to a dismal Human Rights direction. We reiterate that consultations should have been undertaken with legal and policy experts within the government, academia, Ministry of Health, Development partners and the segment of the population most likely to be affected by the statement in the spirit of public participation which is enshrined as law and as part of our National values and principles.
We thus write on behalf on the communities and the special interest groups that we represent to demand as follows of the government of Kenya:
I. The Government respects and protects the Constitution and must remain steadfast in its commitment to women’s rights.
II. The Government must demonstrate total dedication to implement existing and ratified UN Conventions that form part of the Laws of Kenya
III. The Government should NOT implement or act on anything contained within the Geneva Statement that is contrary to the Constitution of Kenya that will undoubtedly curtail and violate the rights of Kenyans and open the Government of Kenya to unnecessary litigation.
Lastly, we request for a clear re-affirmation that the Government of Kenya will desist in foreign trade offs that impact on women’s lives negatively and are not a reflection of the letter and spirit of our Constitution. We urge you to reaffirm the human rights based approach that dominates the administrative agenda of the incumbent President Elect of the USA President Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris
The REJECT KENYA'S CONTINUED TRADE OFFS ON WOMEN'S LIVES petition to MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, MINISTRY OF HEALTH was written by Linda Kroeger and is in the category International Affairs at GoPetition.