HUMAN RIGHTS ARE INHERENT NOT HEREDITARY
The sole responsibility of any government in the world is to promote and protect human rights of its citizens by every means available. In Kenya there are two levels of governments – national government headed by the President and county governments led by governors.
The two levels of governments are under one unitary State with each having defined roles to play at national and the county levels as stipulated in the 2010 Constitution. For instance, education, security are responsibility of the national government while agriculture, county health, are devolved to county governments as explained in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution.
Since managing and fulfilling public expectations by these governments is not easy, constitution requires citizen participation in decision making. Participation is recommended as it engages the public in prioritising their development needs and hold government accountable.
The needs of public vary from one region to another depending on how marginalised the place has been, gender, population, literacy level among other basic human rights. Chapter Four of the Constitution spells out the Bill of Rights that every individual in Kenya is entitled to regardless of one’s background.
The Bill of Rights is an integral part of Kenya’s democratic state and is the framework for social, economic and cultural policies. Therefore, the 42 ethnic communities found in Kenya are equally protected despite cultural diversity. Unity in diversity reflects the rich of these communities which they can boast of.
According to Samson Omondi, programme officer in charge of accountability and projects at Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), the purpose of recognising and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms is to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities and to promote social justice and the realisation of the potential of all human beings.
“These rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights belong to each individual and are not granted by the State. For instance, right to life that begins at conception, movement, association, worship/religion, privacy, opinion/views, vote/election, assemble/gathering, clean and healthy environment, treatment, fair trial among others,” Mr Omondi clarified.
The rights are not only limited to men and prominent persons in our society, it extends to certain groups of persons such as; children, youths, women, persons with disability, prisoners, refugees among other vulnerable groups.
Mr Omondi reiterated that these rights are inherent (inborn) and cannot be transferred or inherited from parents to children. He urged any person who feels his or her rights has been infringed on is free to report it the organisation for action.
The KNCHR official said the organisation is mandated to promote rights of individuals and those whose rights are infringed upon.
“All human rights are inherent and not inherited from parents neither are they privileges offered by governments to its citizens. If the government fails to deliver on certain services to its people, it is the right of citizen to demand for it and even sue government,” Mr Omondi explained.
For example, Article 43 (a) states that every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to healthcare services, including reproductive health. So governments should ensure there are enough hospitals and medical staffs to provide services like family planning services of clients’ choice and midwifery to reduce the high rate of maternal mortality in the country.
Mr Omondi urged the public to read and understand their rights in the current constitution so that they become well conversant with their rights and when infringed upon. He pointed out the lack of information and ignorance among citizens as factors that contribute to high level of exploitation among the special groups of persons in society.
People living with HIV and Aids have right to seek medical attention and be treated without discrimination at any government funded health facility. They are entitled to private medication for instance, given antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs at free cost.
Again such information is not supposed to be relayed to the public unless otherwise to only immediate family members and very close relatives of their choice.
However, majority of HIV/Aids patients suffer in silent from fear of stigmatisation and discrimination in the society they live in. This privacy of an individual health status applies to voluntarily counselling and testing for HIV among other terminal illness deemed secret.
According to Article 43 a person shall not be denied emergency medical treatment. On the contrary to this statement, several patients have been turned away without treatment on unclear circumstances. Others are always sent away on the grounds that there are no medicines, their case requires expertise hence needs referral but the bottom-line is always negligence by nurses.
Additionally, a person with any disability is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect and be addressed and referred to in a manner that is not demeaning.
Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), the largest referral health facility in the country has been on the spot over such complaints. Many patients, especially from Kibera and Mathare slums in Nairobi have always complained of discrimination by hospital staff.
Fred Odhiambo, a Nairobi resident, recently rushed her wife to KNH after she complained of stomach upset but lost her while on queue despite seeking emergency treatment with the medics. Mr Odhiambo said none of the nurses was ready to listen to his plea.
“The worst hospital to turn to in case of urgent medical attention is KNH. There nurses are sluggish and unbothered of any patients’ health condition,” he lamented.
Prison inmates are also entitled to these rights and fundamental freedoms unless particular right or fundamental freedom is clearly incompatible with the fact that the person is detained, held in custody or imprisoned.
On the gender perspective, the constitution protects individuals from forced cultural practices like female genital mutilation. Article 44(3) a person shall not compel another person to perform, observe or undergo any cultural practice or rite. Therefore, communities that perform such cultural practices as rite of passage to adulthood must not impose young girls to it.
In general, every human being has a right and these rights are universal which the State or person cannot discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground. These include race, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth.