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New Law to address plight of vulnerable children

The National Council for Children’s Services is calling on county governments to commit resources in the full implementation of the new children law.

Kenyan children scored a big win following the signing of the Children Bill 2022 into law by former President Uhuru Kenyatta in July this year.

The children council led by its Chief Executive Officer Sheikh Abdinoor Mohamed said the new law which now replaces the Children Act 2001, is a huge reprieve for Kenyan children who come in conflict with the law.

Speaking in Mombasa during a stakeholder sensitization meeting on the new law, Mohamed said counties will play a critical role in sensitizing the public who are yet to familiarize themselves with the new changes.

According to Mohamed the law values the plight of intersex who have faced discrimination in social economic affairs owing to their status.

“We want to ask our counties and devolved units to join us in the sensitization and in the implementation of this law, because the biggest challenges are to let every Kenyan understand the new changes within the law, “said Mohamed.

According to Mohamed, the new law also states that children accused of committing minor offenses, will not be taken through the court’s system, rather, they will be diverted to community-based systems.

“The national council for children services is now in charge of coordination role, and oversight roles. Adoption matters have been consolidated in the department of children services, and we are making sure that we sensitize as many stakeholders as possible, because they are critical in the implementation, “said Mohamed.

Mohamed said the biggest challenge is resource mobilization to undertake a coordinated and uniform sensitization both in the urban and remote areas.

The amendment also sought to address emerging issues affecting children in Kenya and gaps identified during the implementation of the Children Act 2001.

Some of the emerging issues are; radicalization, online abuse, deinstitutionalization, intersex children, inheritance and diversion for children in conflict with the law.

For cases that are not minor, the law states that the Chief Justice may designate children’s courts in counties and sub counties and appoint a magistrate to preside over the cases in which a child is a victim or complainant.

It further provides that all children coming into conflict with the law will be provided with free legal aid to enable them to navigate through the justice system.

“Clause 64 provides for the establishment of child protection units by the Inspector-General in every police station for the purposes of providing, on a temporary basis, a safe and non-threatening environment for children in conflict with the law,” the law reads.

Clause 142 of the law defines a child in need of care and protection as one who lives in difficult circumstances and needs to be protected from all kinds of abuse and neglect. It also defines a child living on or off the streets as one to be protected by the new law.

Another big score for children is the establishment of a Child Welfare Fund to cater for the needs of children in distress.

“Clause 56 provides that Parliament shall appropriate monies for the National Council for Children Services. Other sources of funding for the council include grants, gifts, donations or other endowments given to the Council.”

The law also introduces a new concept of kinship adoption. Under this concept, relatives wishing to adopt children related to them will be able to do it in a much cheaper, faster way that is devoid of legal technicalities.

The process of amending the Children Act 2001 was necessitated by the need to align it to the 2010 Constitution, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and other relevant international instruments relating to children. 

By Mohamed Hassan

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