UPR REVIEW: Human Rights Council Reviews Kenya’s Reproductive Health Rights Record

UPR REVIEW: Human Rights Council Reviews Kenya’s Reproductive Health Rights Record

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NAIROBI, 22 January 2020 — Kenya’s human rights record will be under review tomorrow (Thursday 23, 2010) at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, with the reproductive health and rights of women and girls coming under the spotlight.

The thirty-fifth session of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group is being held in Geneva from 20 to 31 January during which the next group of 14 States are scheduled to have their human rights records examined under this mechanism.

This year, the group of States being reviewed by the UPR Working Group during this session are (in order of scheduled review): Kyrgyzstan, Kiribati, Guinea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Spain, Lesotho, Kenya, Armenia, Guinea-Bissau, Sweden, Grenada, Turkey, Guyana and Kuwait.

Representatives of the 14 countries are scheduled to come before the Working Group to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.

During the pre-session meetings in Geneva last month, a number of civil society organizations highlighted the fact that Kenya is yet to implement many of the existing policies and guidelines on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) despite numerous verbal and written commitments.

Robert Aseda, the Programme Coordinator at the Network for Adolescents and Youth of Africa (NAYA), Kenya needs to “enact a Reproductive Health Law to provide a human rights based legal framework for young people’s sexual and reproductive health, paying particular attention to the young people facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.”

The four main reproductive health and rights areas that the Working Group will focus on in the next two weeks are:

ISSUE 1: Barriers to Accessing Comprehensive Youth Friendly Sexual and Reproductive Health Services

ISSUE 2: Restrictive Policy and Legal Environment on Comprehensive Abortion Care

ISSUE 3: Inadequate Access and Provision of Comprehensive Sexuality Education by Young People

ISSUE 4: Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression and Sex Characteristics.

In line with the National Adolescent and Youth Friendly Services Guidelines, the CSOs have recommended that Kenya increases proportion of public health facilities providing comprehensive youth friendly services from 10% to 30% by 2020.

The report being evaluated by the Human Rights Council is a collaborative effort by Right Here Right Now (RHRN) Kenya, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance Kenya, Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa (NAYA), Reproductive Health Network (RHN) and Love Matters Kenya with technical support from Rutgers, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, Sexual Rights Initiative and International Planned Parenthood Federation – Africa Region Office.

On access to safe abortion services within the scope provided for by the constitution, the CSOs noted that the Kenyan health sector has not taken any action to implement the 2012 Standards and Guidelines on Reducing Maternal Mortality and Morbidity related to unsafe abortions.

This is despite the June 2019 high court ruling that the guidelines be reinstated and implemented after being arbitrarily withdrawn in 2013.

In their report, the CSOs also noted that “although the Kenya School Health Policy, the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy 2015 and the Education Sector Policy on HIV/AIDS provides for comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), the Ministry of Education is yet to integrate CSE in the school curriculum thereby denying young people access to sexuality education and information.”

The review covers the period from 2015 – 2019 and discusses progress as well as gaps in access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights in Kenya.

Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. It is a state-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. 

As one of the main features of the Human Rights Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed. The ultimate aim of this mechanism is to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur. Currently, no other universal mechanism of this kind exists.