In Kenya, street children are often discriminated against as though they are breaking the law. They are regularly treated with violence and contempt by state authorities and members of the public. Children are often arrested simply for being on the street. Here Toybox Programme Manager for Africa and Asia, Smita Khanijow, explains more about the current situation.
"In 2022, Kenya enacted the Children’s Act, which gave priority to family-based alternative care as opposed to the institutionalisation of children in Children’s Homes. However, due to a lack of awareness about the legal provisions under this Act and widespread discrimination, children connected with the streets continue to be illegally detained and kept in detention until their court hearings. The minimum age of Criminal Responsibility in Kenya is eight years old and the first point of contact in the Justice System for a child offender is the police station. Police stations lack Child Protection Units that are supposed to keep the children safe. As a result, most children in the Justice System end up being locked in the adult cells, which lack the basic facilities such as beds, bedding or toilets. This leads to the children being exposed to diseases and they are also at high risk of becoming victims of violence or sexual violence from adults in the cells or from the officers.
Toybox’s local partner PKL are working to address this issue by representing children in conflict with the law. The team reaches out to children in remand homes, police stations and street outreach referrals and they also organise sessions with the Child Protection Unit members. However, there are several challenges to this work at the community level, including a lack of understanding and awareness of the legal system. There is also a lack of space and infrastructure to support the needs of young people in remand homes and no aftercare is given to children after their release. Similarly, at the government level there is no resource to create awareness about the new legal provisions.
Please join us in praying for wisdom, strength and discernment for our partner PKL, as they work through these issues at a local level. We also pray that the Children’s Act gets implemented in spirit and that all children who lack protection and care get the support they desperately need."
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