Homes may be violating children’s rights

The harm is more pronounced for children under the age of three.

Children playing in school. Weak adoption laws could have also exposed hundreds of Kenyan children to abuse and exploitation both locally and internationally. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

IN SUMMARY

  • Decades of research have shown that the institutionalisation of children harms their cognitive, social, and intellectual development.
  • Those who recruit children into unscrupulous homes should be charged in court and if found guilty.

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The Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2010 defines trafficking in persons as recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or reception of another person through fraud, deception, abuse of power or position of vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation.

There is strong evidence of such recruitment in children’s homes in Kenya.

Poor parents and guardians are easily deceived into handing over their children to such homes, lured by promises of a good education and life for them.

While the Act provides a list of actions that could be construed as exploitation, it uses the phrase “not limited to” to infer that exploitation potentially includes other actions not expressly stated.

Generally, exploitation can be defined as the use of a person or a situation to benefit oneself.

Decades of research have shown that the institutionalisation of children harms their cognitive, social, and intellectual development.

The harm is more pronounced for children under the age of three.

In addition, The World Report on Violence against Children noted that violence in children’s institutions is six times higher than in families, a fact evidenced by the many cases of abuse and chronic neglect of children in homes in Kenya, as highlighted by the media.

Institutionalisation violates a child’s right to survival and development, parental care, freedom of association, freedom of worship, and other civil and socio-economic rights.

Indeed, the link between violation of the rights of a child and child trafficking is straightforward.

PROSECUTE THEM

Consequently, the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act proposes an amendment to Section 22 of the Children Act 2001 so that any infringement on the rights of the child that constitutes a trafficking offence is tried under the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act.

Children in homes are trained and expected to sing to visitors to entice them to leave donations and photos of impoverished children holding half-empty plastic cups of porridge are a common sight on the websites of children’s homes.

This is meant to evoke sympathy and increase donations.

Some unscrupulous elements are even known to deliberately starve children and divert donations to maintain their appearance of deprivation.

Subjecting children to such suffering for personal enrichment clearly amounts to exploitation and, by extension, child trafficking.

Those who recruit children into unscrupulous homes should be charged in court and if found guilty, serve the maximum sentence for the offence — 30 or more years in jail.

Secondly, and more importantly, Section 13 of the Act provides for compensation of victims of trafficking for the cost of any medical or psychological treatment they may undergo.

Correction of the damage to such institutionalised children requires extensive, sometimes lifelong therapy.

Section 15 of the Act provides support to victims of trafficking by the minister, in this case for Labour, Social Security, and Services, in consultation with the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Advisory Committee.

Such support includes resettlement, reintegration, appropriate shelter and other basic needs, and psycho-social support through the National Assistance Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in persons.

Mr Njoroge is an advocacy officer, Child in Family Focus - Kenya. snjoroge@childinfamilyfocus.or.ke

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