Happy new year ! We all claim we have rights and everyone should respect another’s rights .You  hear people screaming to officials and authorities of how they know their rights but deep down do we really understands our rights? Do we even know what rights are? 

In our Kenyan constitution 2010 we find the Bill of Rights in Chapter Four which provides a comprehensive explanation of our rights and fundamental freedoms. Further apart from the constitution we have laws that are enacted by parliament that discuss the limitation and application of the rights and fundamental freedoms.

There are different categories of rights namely political rights, social rights, economic rights, rights for persons with disabilities and children rights, just to mention a few.

 A child has been defined from different angles. The Traditionalist define a child is a person who has not being circumcised or passed the initiation stage of their life despite their age. The legal minds define a child as anyone who is below the age of 18years. Scientists define a child as young human being below the age of puberty. However, always remember the law will always prevail over any tradition there is when it comes to discussing rights of children. Therefore for the purposes of this discourse, a child will always refer to persons below the age of 18years

In matters relating to (a) child(ren) the golden principle is  ‘A child’s best interests are of paramount’. All decisions made relating a child should always apply this principle.

Article 53 of the Kenyan Constitution, The Children’s Act and the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child are some of the laws that provide for the rights of children.

It is next to impossible to conclusively address all the rights of a child partly because rights are always evolving from time to time. The Constitution itself acknowledges that whatever rights it has, are in no way conclusive. That said, some of the notable rights of a child include:

  1. The right to a name and nationality from birth;

Every child has a right to have a name and nationality. This is one of the ways for the child to have a sense of belonging and understand his originality. In the case of a child who is deprived of this right, the government should take up all the necessary action to protect the child’s right.

In order to ensure this right is exercised; every child born in Kenya and in a hospital before leaving the hospital is issued with a birth notification certificate. The parent or guardian is expected to apply for a birth certificate for the child at the Registrar of persons in county of birth of the child attaching the application is identification cards (ID) copy of the parents and a copy of the birth notification.

  • The right to free and compulsory basic education;

Basic education includes but not limited to primary and secondary studies. Every child has a right to basic education and any parent who denies a child this right commits and offence and is liable to punishment in law. The government has made this possible by ensuring there is access to free primary education. If you identify a child being denied access to education you can make a report to the area chief, county children officers and the police station for action to be taken against the parents or guardian.

  • Right to parental care and protection,

 Every child has a right to receive love, care and protection from both the father and mother, irrespective of the parents being married or not. Parents should take note that parental responsibility is equal between the two parents. Failure for one parent to meet their duty and responsibility they can be sued in a court of law.

  • Right not to be detained.

In the event a child is suspected of having committed an offence, he or she should not be detained. The Constitution provides that every child has a right not to be detained unless it’s the last resort. If a child is detained there conditions that must be satisfied, which include:

  1. The detention period should be  for the shortest period  possible;
  2. The child’s age and gender should be considered when deciding the location to detain the child; and 
  3. The child should be detained in separate conditions from those serving sentence and away from adults.

Other children rights include:

  1. Right to be protected from discrimination.
  2.  Right to be protected from child labour and armed conflict.
  3. Right to be protected from abuse.
  4. Right to be protected from harmful cultural rites.
  5.  Right to be protected from sexual exploitation.
  6.  Right to be protected from drugs.
  7.  Right to be Leisure and recreation.
  8.  Right to be protected from Torture and deprivation of liberty.
  9. Right to privacy

Anyone can violate the children rights at any point either directly or indirectly. Therefore it is the duty of all persons to protect children and prevent the violation of the children’s rights in order to protect the future of the country and generations.

In case there is a violation of any children rights, a person can apply to the High Court through an advocate for redress on behalf of the child.

As we say rights come with responsibilities and children are not exempted either. These are just a few of the duties and responsibilities of a child:

  • To respect his parents, superiors and elders at all times and assist them in case of need.
  • To serve his national community by placing his physical and intellectual abilities at its service;
  •  To preserve and strengthen social and national solidarity; and
  •  To preserve and strengthen the positive cultural values of his community in his relations with other members of that community

See also Types of marriages in Kenya

ARTICLE BY A. Muriuki with the guidance of Mutai Maina Kimeu Associates wakilimuriukiwangui@gmail.com.