A Virtual Report Launch Webinar

I am delighted to join the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), its partners, Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa, Reproductive Health Network Kenya, Kenya legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV & AIDs, DSW and entire reproductive rights fraternity at this virtual launch of the report :A Decade of Existence: Tracking Implementation of Article 26(4) of the Constitution, Revealing Progress, Reversals, and Betrayal of a National Compromise  which provides a journey of breathing life to article 26 (4) of the Constitution. 

August 27 is a very crucial date in our calendar- it is the day that we celebrate the birth of our Constitution: One of the most progressive Constitution in the World. It is this Constitution that gave us the Bill of Rights, an integral part of Kenya as a democratic state. And these rights include reproductive health  rights- rights that belong to each individual and are not granted by the State. We should therefore be worried when State begins to police how, when and who should have access to sexual and reproductive health and services. 

For a very long time, women rights were seen as subordinate- that is why women were disinherited, disfranchised, and missed in key decision-making positions. 

It is this precedence that continues to adversely affect women and girls right to highest attainable standard of health including reproductive health. 

Reproductive rights are human rights. Yet these rights specifically access to safe abortion and post abortion care services remain a great challenge. 10 years since the promulgation of the Constitution, we are still losing lives of women and girls. Unsafe abortion remains one of the leading causes of maternal mortality and morbidities. 7 women and girls die every day due to unsafe abortion. These deaths are preventable. 

Unfortunately, there is little that has been done to ensure women and girls access to safe and legal abortion and post abortion care.  Abortion stigma, misinformation, and lack of implementation of court decisions are key contributors to the status quo. To date, the Ministry of Health is yet to provide guidance on provision of abortion services, a year after the High Court reinstated the Standard and Guidelines on Reducing Maternal Morbidities and Mortalities due to unsafe abortion in Kenya.

The situation is further exacerbated by rise of fundamentalists who are not only targeting reproductive rights but women rights in general- not just in Kenya but also globally

Since 2012, we have seen increased attacks on article 26 (4). These attacks have led to delays in enactment of key legislations and policies on women rights including enable women and girls access to full range of sexual and reproductive health and rights. We have witnessed increased censorship on matters reproductive rights: campaigns aimed at creating awareness on reproductive rights being banned and key service provisions being suspended. Roadside declarations are rising including threats to crackdown health facilities providing reproductive health services.

We have forgotten the very goal of Bill of Rights which is ‘to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities and to promote social justice and the realization of the potential of all human beings’. Instead our inaction has pushed poor women and girls to quacks. I say poor women and girls because those with money can buy these services in the privacy and comfort high end private facilities. We  profile the poor who seek safe services and close facilities that provide dignified care for the less financially endowed.

We all remember the story of “JMM”, a teenage girl who was defiled, impregnated,  due to lack of comprehensive information sought unsafe abortion, failed to receive quality healthcare, and ultimately died from unsafe abortion complications. JMM reminds us that reproductive rights are key to women and girls reaching their full potential and overcoming systemic inequalities. Our gender equality campaigns must therefore recognize the primacy of women and girls’access to full range of sexual and reproductive health services and reproductive health education. Education that will empower our women and girls to make decisions over their bodies.We must therefore occupy all the spaces and push for equality- because women rights are human rights.

That is why we are gathered here today, to remind the state of their betrayal to the promise of ensuring that no woman or girl should die due to unsafe abortion. I commend individuals, institutions including the Center for Reproductive Rights who continue to hold the state accountable. The next 10 years are crucial, as we have already witnessed attempts to alter the Constitution. We must stay woke. Our checklist must include our primary role: to RESPECT, UPHOLD and DEFEND the Constitution. 

It is now my pleasure to officially launch the Center for Reproductive Rights latest publication that has tracked in the last decade,  implementation of Article 26(4) of the Constitution, revealing progress, reversals, and betrayal of a national compromise….ladies and gentlemen… 

I thank you all!


Martha Karua.

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