A raft of legal amendments in the National Assembly seeks to tighten laws and confront child trafficking involving wealthy and well-connected criminals.
Nairobi features regularly on international reports as a source and transit point for child trafficking, feeding into the cross border crime networks by exploiting a lax enforcement regime and a compromised legal environment.
The proposed changes are in the Statutes Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill.
Specific amendments proposed in the Children’s Act (2013), include giving powers to the Labour and Social Security Cabinet secretary to shut down and deregister charitable institutions whose operations or activities are found wanting.
The amendments also lay emphasis on state-supported foster care of children to replace the policy of placing needy minors in isolated homes and making them targets of commercial and criminal interests.
The amendments give power to the CS to refuse the registration of institutions if he or she believes they are not in the best interest of the child.
“Notwithstanding any provisions of this Act, the Cabinet secretary may direct the National Council of Children's Services to cancel registration or shut down an institution where lives are in danger or where continued stay there is likely to endanger the children's wellbeing,” the proposed amendment says.
Activists and human rights groups have been campaigning to have the law changed since 2008 when a Unicef and the Children's Department report revealed a syndicate involving lawyers, judicial officers and adoption agencies sneaking Kenyan children to prospective “adoption” destinations abroad.
“The fact that there is more money to be made from inter-country and resident adoptions than from local ones, and that there is pressure from foreign agencies to find babies for applicants may well distort inter-country adoptions against the local ones,” the report authored by John Murimi Njoka and John Parry-Williams said.
The report cited an incident in which an Italian agent showed up with 17 children in court seeking orders to fly them out of the country.
The adoption orders were initially granted but later overturned.
“A magistrate related how a lawyer tried to get her change a foster care into an adoption order. Lawyers occasionally use a certificate of urgency to speed up proceedings to cover up discrepancies in the affidavits,” the report added.