MDAC’s focus in Kenya is investigating how decision-making rights are taken away from people with psycho-social or intellectual disabilities.
Kenya has ratified the major regional and international human rights instruments, including the CRPD (in 2008). In August 2010, Kenya adopted a new Constitution that has been seen by most human rights activists as progressive when compared to previous Constitutions in Kenya and the Constitution of other African Countries. Article 54 of the Constitution specifically protects the rights of persons with disabilities.
The Kenyan government is currently drafting legislations following the adoption of the Constitution. This includes a Mental Health Bill, a Social Protection Bill, and draft policies on disability, on human rights, and on special needs education. The National Human Rights and Equality Commission (KNHREC) has carried out some limited work on disability rights.
The extent to which the decision making rights of adults with disabilities is infringed has not been fully researched in order to come up with evidence based reformed. However, others continue to substitute the decision of people with disabilities instead of exploiting the type of support they may need to make decisions for themselves.
Violence and abuse against people with disabilities is prevalent in places of detention. In February 2011 a CNN investigation revealed the extent of abuse in Kenya’s mental health system where people are chemically and physically restrained, locked up in overcrowded facilities without any safeguards. Even though the investigation did not cover community-based services, it played a role in creating a sense of urgency to finding solutions, and as a result the Human Rights Commission instituted an audit of mental health services.
Some people with disabilities continue to experience barriers in exercising their right to political participation since laws, including the Constitution, continue to restrict people of ‘unsound mind’ from voting or holding elective and appointive positions. Advocacy conducted prior to the August 2010 constitutional referendum resulted in the government registering and assisting some adults with intellectual disabilities in exercising their right to vote.
Research and monitoring: MDAC is currently conducting research on the right to legal capacity in Kenya. The study aims to provide an evidence-base on how laws, policies and practices impact the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and people with psycho-social disabilities in making legally independent decisions, and in being supported in making decisions where they need such support. The research will result in a report with recommendations to the government. Also, MDAC is currently seeking funding to conduct research and monitoring that will contribute in combatting torture and ill-treatment in Kenya. MDAC is particularly interested in monitoring the extent of ill-treatment in mental health and other services in Kenya and is actively seeking funding in this regard.
Advocacy: Following the completion of its research on legal capacity MDAC will collaborate with Kenyan NGOs to develop and implement an advocacy strategy in order to bring laws, policies and practices that restrict or deprive legal capacity for persons with disabilities in line with international human rights standards.
Capacity-building: MDAC supported two attorneys from Kenya to participate in its litigation training for attorneys from East Africa which took place in February 2012 in Kampala, Uganda.
Strategic litigation: As a follow up to the East African training, MDAC is liaising with lawyers to take strategic human rights cases to court.