Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Court allows transgender activists to register lobby group

Ms Audrey Mbugua, formerly Andrew Ithibu Mbugua, has been battling for recognition as a transsexual. PHOTO | FILE | NATION

Ms Audrey Mbugua, formerly Andrew Ithibu Mbugua, has been battling for recognition as a transsexual. PHOTO | FILE | NATION 

By VINCENT AGOYA
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A group seeking to have their transgender status recognised in Kenya has won a major legal battle.

This is after a high court judge ordered the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) coordination board to register an advocacy group for transgender people in a landmark ruling likely to open a Pandora’s box of gender discrimination lawsuits.

Justice George Odunga criticised the board for declining to recognise the Transgender Education and Advocacy (TEA), whose members had sued for discrimination and violation of their fundamental human rights.

Justice Odunga said the board’s refusal to register the group amounted to a failure in discharging statutory functions and mandate and “was unfair, unreasonable, unjustified and in breach of rules of natural justice.”

COST OF LITIGATION

He also ordered the board to compensate Ms Audrey Mbugua, Ms Maureen Muia and Ms Annet Jennifer the cost of the three-year litigation.

The judge said the Constitution upheld the individuals' rights to assembly and cannot be deterred on grounds of gender orientation.

The board had argued that it could not recognise the group's members since the names they had submitted for registration were not the ones reflecting their gender.

However, the judge said there was evidence that Ms Mbugua and her colleagues had indeed changed their names through a deed poll they annexed in the suit papers.

'DISCRIMINATORY ACTIONS'

The judge said the premise of gender cannot be used to deny registration.

“A public authority cannot be allowed to get away with discriminatory actions that deny persons their rights of assembly which is a clear abuse of the power bestowed on such an authority,” the judge added.

He said the reasons advanced for refusing to register the advocacy group had no legal basis and were unreasonable.

Ms Audrey, formerly Andrew Ithibu Mbugua, has been battling for recognition as a transsexual.

She has a separate pending case in which she wants the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) to change the gender designation in her certificates on the grounds that the male identity has rendered her unemployable.

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