3 May 2007

Kenya: Children's Act Reviewed to Clear Ambiguities

Nairobi — The Children's Act 2001 has been reviewed and will be tabled in Parliament next month.

The reviewed document captures issues that were left out in the Act and clears ambiguities.

Mr Ahmed Hussein, the director of the Children's Department, on Wednesday said critical issues had been overlooked in the Act and this had led to continued violation of children's rights.

"Despite the presence of the Children Act, orphans continue to be vulnerable. Children in conflict with the law continue to be handled like adults," he said.

He said the reviewed document devotes an entire chapter on diversion - the process of dealing with children in conflict with the law without resorting to formal trial by the normal courts.

"Under diversion, a child is interrogated in a non-threatening manner in the presence of a parent or guardian. The police stations are required to have special units for holding children based on age and gender," Hussein said.

The diversion concept offers alternatives for non-custodial sentences to reduce congestion in remand homes and holding centres.

Options to jail terms include cautions or warnings, placing the child under supervision of a probation officer and counselling.

Act will seek to clear issues on adoption

Hussein said discussions are ongoing to include issues of parental responsibility in the Act.

"For instance, who has the primary responsibility for the child? Is it the mother, father or both and how can one acquire parental responsibility?" he posed.

In a bid to curb child trafficking, the reviewed Act will seek to clear issues on adoption and especially international adoptions.

"It is important that we put in place measures to avoid having our children in the wrong hands under the guise of international adoption," he said.

Hussein was speaking at Police headquarters in Nairobi during the launch of a handbook for police officers on child rights and protection.

The handbook provides quick reference for police officers to the legal provisions protecting children, especially the Children's Act.

African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (Anppcan) published the handbook in collaboration with Save the Children, Sweden.

"The book defines who a child is and gives the age of criminal responsibility under the Kenyan law," said Ms Rose Odoyo, chief executive officer, Anppcan-Kenya.

The handbook guides police officers on handling children upon arrest, how to deal with child abuse cases and the diversion concept.

"Officers all over the country will receive a copy of the book and it will also be used in police training institutions," said Mr David Kimaiyo, a senior Deputy Commissioner of Police.

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