The National Gender and Equality Commission joins the world, older members of society families, and the Government of Kenya in marking the 2020 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) under the principal theme ‘Lifting Up Voices’. The World Elder Abuse Awareness Day takes place every year on 15 June as designated by the United Nations General Assembly. The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.
In the past decade, Kenya has made tremendous efforts towards creating a legal and policy environment that promotes and protects the rights of the older members of society. Article 57 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 outlines the rights of the older members of society. It provides that the States shall take measures to ensure the rights of older persons-
- to fully participate in the affairs of society;
- to pursue their personal development;
- to live in dignity and respect and be free from abuse; and
- to receive reasonable care and assistance from their family and the State.
In 2011 Kenya launched National Social Protection Policy that seeks to ensure that all Kenyans including older members of society live in dignity and exploit their human capabilities for their own social and economic development. This policy has informed the ground breaking Consolidated Cash Transfer Program (CCTP) with a successful reach under ICT enabled Inua Jamii initiative to over 770,000 beneficiaries of ages 70 years and above. In 2014, Kenya launched the National Policy on Older Persons and Ageing to support provision of environment that recognizes, empowers, and facilitates Older Persons to actively and meaningfully participate in the society, and enjoy their rights and freedoms and live in dignity.
In spite of the existing legal and policy framework that promotes and protects the rights of the older members of the society, Kenya continues to register increased cases of physical, sexual, psychological, financial an emotional abuses and harm directed to older members of society. Neglect and withdrawal of support tops in the range of harm to older members of society. Most cases are not documented or officially reported in the crimes statistics. Elder abuse is attributed to multiple factors key among them include; vulnerable state of the old persons especially those without family or pension, high dependency of older persons to family members and society, land and property issues, allegations on witchcraft and sorcery, retrogressive cultural practices, sexual violence, drug and substance abuse among care givers. Past assessments conducted by the National Gender and Equality Commission shows that most of the perpetrators of violence against older persons are care givers, family members and close relatives well known by the survivors https://www.ngeckenya.org/Downloads/Assessment-on-violence-against-older-persons-in-Kenya.pdf
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation. Persons of age 60 and above and especially those with pre-existing health conditions (most persons in these age brackets suffer age-related health conditions) have been categorized as high risk groups likely to suffer more from the Covid-19 attacks. The measures put in place to contain the spread of the Covid-19 such as quarantine, self-isolation and restricted movements have confined some of the older persons with perpetrators of violence while others older persons have been separated from their care givers and family members and left in the rural areas without support and assistance. Many as well are limited from accessing the essential services such as health. The loss of livelihoods of their caregivers occasioned by the pandemic threatens the lives and safety of older persons since most of them are dependents.
The National Gender and Equality Commission is a constitutional Commission established to promote gender equality and freedom from discrimination with a focus on the special interest groups including women, youth, children, older members of society, Persons with Disabilities, minority and marginalized groups. One of the key functions of the Commission is; to co-ordinate and facilitate mainstreaming of issues of gender, persons with disability and other marginalised groups in national development and to advise the Government on all aspects thereof; To this end, the Commission takes this opportunity during the celebrations of the WEAAD to applaud the Government of Kenya for the increased resource allocation, planning and implementation of programs that cushion the elderly from poverty, hunger and loss of dignity as well as from ill-health including infections from Covid-19. These programs are expected to significantly and reduce incidences of abuses directed to older persons.
The Commission further applaud the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection for the accelerated efforts put towards the ratification process of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa. The protocol is expected to inform the government policies and programs on among others; elimination of discrimination against older persons, their access to justice and protection by law, the rights to making decisions, social safety, protection from Protection from abuse and harmful traditional practices, participation in programs and recreational activities, and creating awareness about ageing and preparing all persons for old age.
In our effort to ‘lifting up the voices, the Commission calls for concerted efforts among all stakeholder including Ministries, County Governments, Departments and Agencies(MCDAs) and non-state to address the plight of our older members of society including the provision of the necessary protection mechanisms and structures including ensuring that families are obligated to take care of the older persons.
The Commission urges the Parliament to expedite the enactment of the Care and Protection of Older Members of the Society Bill, 2018 that seeks to give effect to Article 57 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. We further request the Parliament to protect pensioners from excessive income taxes imposed on the monthly or lump sum pension paid to senior citizens as proposed in the Budget Statement for the year 20202-21.
In conclusion, the Commission reiterates that the older members of the society are a productive and important segment of the Kenya’s population whose rights must be protected, respected and promoted by all. It is incumbent upon all stakeholders therefore to speak out, report and take action to protect older persons against violence, abuse and neglect.
Dr. Joyce M. Mutinda, (PhD)