Will women rights be safe in Kenya Kwanza regime?
Recent pronouncements by president-Elect William Ruto has raised alarm for most pro-choice groups. On many occasions the President-Elect has been asked about his stand in regards to sexual and reproductive health, including abortion.
However, his response might not have been favourable for organisations running the sexual and reproductive health and rights in Kenya.
Notably, during the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Nairobi summit, Ruto reacted to sentiments uttered by Church leaders who claimed the ICPD wants to introduce themes that are against the values. He remarked that “Kenya is a God-fearing nation that will not tolerate teachings that go against the Bible.”
On the other hand, Kenya Kwanza’s manifesto is clear on what they commit to doing to realise the constitutional right to health by promising to deliver a Universal Health Coverage (UHC) system built on three pillars, including setting aside a seed deposit amount of Sh100 billion into co-funding the strategic programmes for HIV, tuberculosis, blood transfusion, malaria, family planning and reproductive health.
Further, among others, Kenya Kwanza commits to increasing the number of, and personnel at, gender desks at police stations; increasing funding for the Anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) board and fully implementing the anti-FGM law; providing free sanitary towels in all schools and public washrooms; and on strengthening leadership accountability and de-personalising politics.
Kenya kwanza manifesto commits to legislate an affirmative action framework to implement Article 56 of the Constitution that provides for the affirmative action for minorities and marginalised groups, ensure they participate and are represented in governance and other spheres of life, are provided special educational and economic opportunities, are provided for access to employment opportunities, develop their cultural values, languages and practices and have reasonable access to water health services and infrastructure.
Looking back, in 2010 during the referendum on draft constitution, Ruto ran a “no” campaign over abortion, securing the support of the Catholic and powerful evangelical churches.
Consequently, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula recently tweeted praising the Roe v Wade ruling claiming it is a right to life. Further, commenting that it is a judicial milestone that restores the dignity and respect for human life, including that of the defenseless unborn child.
Watang’ula also remarked that if appointed as the Speaker of the National Assembly, “I pray to God that he gives me the wisdom to lead the National Assembly and coordinate well with the Senate. We will bring good laws to this country, advocate for pro-people budgets and ensure Kenya will never be the same again.”
This leads me to the question of whether we are likely to see setbacks in the progress we have made as a country. Well, despite the commitments in their manifesto, could the Kenya Kwanza administration be a threat to the milestone made in the achievement of gender issues and reproductive rights of women and sexual minorities?
Drawbacks mean women, girls and sexual minorities’ bodies will serve in battle ground. It is time for the nation to stand its ground and defend the Constitution and hold into account the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature for the hard-worked reproductive rights progress.
—The writer is a sexual and reproductive health and rights expert and a communications specialist