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Kenya ratified the CRC in July of 1990 and became a party to the African Children’s Charter a decade later in July 2000. The UN Committee has stated:

... A comprehensive review of all domestic legislation and related administrative guidance to ensure full compliance with the Convention is an obligation. The review needs to consider the Convention not only article by article, but also holistically, recognizing the interdependence and indivisibility of human rights. The review needs to be continuous rather than one-off, reviewing proposed as well as existing legislation. (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child 2003)

In keeping with this obligation, soon after ratifying the CRC, Kenya embarked on a law reform process. The final product was the Children’s Act. The law’s child care protection and juvenile justice issues are captured in the preamble, which also explicitly speaks of Parliament’s intention to domesticate children’s rights provisions under international law. The child rights ideology were to subsequently impact discussions about the content of legal provisions in various iterations of draft constitutions, eventually leading to the inclusion of a comprehensive children’s rights clause in Kenya’s Constitution in 2010. Article 53 provides for the “rights of every child.” Article 53(2) provides that “a child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.” In relation to juvenile justice, the Kenyan Constitution provides for the child’s “right not to be detained, except as a matter of last resort, and when detained, to be held for the shortest appropriate period of time; separate from adults and in conditions that take into account the child’s sex and age.”

Kenya has thrice, in 2001, 2007 and 2016 had its progress reports examined by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as part of its reporting obligations under the CRC. In its 2007 observations, the Committee appreciated the enactment of legislation aimed at promoting and protecting children’s rights, among other areas of positive practical and legal reforms. The Committee, however, pointed to a litany of gaps regarding juvenile justice where it noted that the system fell short of being fully in line with the CRC.

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