Fida condemns govt move on couples

Tuesday April 14 2009

By CAROLINE WAFULA

Women lawyers have termed the government notice for married couples working in the same department decide who between them will leave employment as a violation of human rights.

Through the Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya (Fida), the advocates have accused the government of engaging in an attack on the institution of the family and vowed to oppose the move.

“We are therefore putting the Government on notice that unless the notice is withdrawn forthwith we shall move to the constitutional court to direct that the intended action is a violation of basic human rights, is discriminatory and in blatant breach of constitutional safeguards,” warned Chairperson Naomi Wagereka Tuesday.

Ms Wagereka said the advocates were even more worried because women were going to be the main victims.

“We are painfully aware of the fact that in a patriarchal society such as Kenya is it is the female spouses who are at risk of losing their employment,” she stated.

Fida joined a chorus of condemnation that has greeted the notice to married couples working in parastatals within the ministry of Finance to decide in the next six months who among them will quit.

The notice was sent to the departments through the Permanent Secretary in the ministry.

Fida said the decision was not only unconstitutional but also discriminatory and against various international human rights laws that Kenya is a signatory to.

The organisation cited Section 82 of the Constitution of Kenya that states that no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by a person acting by virtue of any written law or in the performance of the functions of a public office or public authority.

“The notice amounts to discrimination against married persons, is without basis and is not defendable in a free, democratic and modern society that Kenya purports to be,” said the organisation.

Kenya is also a signatory to several international laws including the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which recognise the family as the natural and basic unit of society and obliges the State to take all necessary measures to protect the family unit and Fida pointed to this as well.

The Universal Declaration of Human rights provides that “everyone has a right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.”

The notice, Fida stated, also goes against the ILO Convention C122 Employment Convention of 1964 and the C111 Convention (Employment and Occupation) Convention of 1958 that provides for the right to work and protection of non discrimination in employment.

It also contravenes the newly enacted Employment Act 2007 and specifically section 5 that prohibits discrimination, the organisation said.