Activists demand Kenya’s withdrawal from Geneva Consensus Declaration over women’s human rights

Activists demand Kenya’s withdrawal from Geneva Consensus Declaration over women’s human rights

21 Kenyan civil society groups have petitioned the Government of Kenya to withdraw from the Geneva Consensus Declaration (GCD).

According to them, the October 22 proclamation developed and championed by the US government, and which Kenya signed, is aimed at eroding internationally recognized human rights, particularly the sexual and reproductive health rights of women.

“President Uhuru Kenya stood up last year at the ICPD conference and vowed to protect Kenyan women and girls. Our government is now playing politics with our lives and health by cozying up to an extremist agenda by the USA. We will not be tradeoffs. Withdraw this co-signing immediately,” said Jedidah Maina, the Executive Director of Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH).

The GCD was co-sponsored by the United States, Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda, and co-signed by 32 countries including Kenya.

The activists aver that despite being a Permanent Representative to the UN, signing the declaration means Amb. Macharia Kamau has traded the fundamental rights and lives of Kenyan women.

They insist that the Kenyan Government’s alignment with the coalition is in direct opposition to the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

The decision is seen as a move to restrict the practice of safe abortion, undermine the rights of women to their bodily autonomy and will in effect have direr effects of driving the practice underground by making it more deadly.

“We are outraged that Kenya’s government would posture in support of this anti-human rights agenda, when we face the largest COVID related epidemics of rising rapes, teen pregnancies and unsafe abortion in sub-Saharan Africa. Our youth are suffering and dying from preventable deaths. The Minister of Foreign Affairs must withdraw from this Declaration,” Ms Maina added.

She stated that Kenya’s co-signing of the Declaration is also at variance to its own constitutional obligations under Article 26(4), which permits abortion when the life or health of the woman is in danger.

Additionally, the activists opine that is also in direct contradiction to existing international commitments by Kenya and a relapse to many national documents that have prioritized women’s reproductive health including the right to safe abortion.

It is hypocritical for the Government of Kenya to endorse such a retrogressive declaration imposed on it by the USA.

Linda Kroeger, the programme officer (sexual and reproductive health) at Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and Aids (KELIN) said the document directly contradicts Kenya’s UN commitments.

“The document totally undermines the mandate and ability of the UN to develop harmonized policies that advance desirable human rights documents. By demanding states be allowed to fashion their own abortion laws, it will encourage states notorious for human rights violations to fashion punitive laws against women,” she said.

The CSOs added that Kenya’s robust Constitution guarantees women the right to life, reproductive health services and access to safe abortion when legally required.

Further, they stated that Kenya is equally committed to its international UN commitments as guaranteed in Article 2(6).

“Such careless endorsements have the effect of giving the erroneous impression that interventions aimed at addressing preventable deaths from unsafe abortion are outlawed,” the letter adds.

“We therefore DEMAND that the government of Kenya immediately withdraw its signature from this retrogressive document that has far reaching negative political, human rights and service delivery implications that will affect our women, girls and other vulnerable groups,” it reads.