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The National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) joins older members of society, Kenya and the world at large in observing the 2021 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).  The World Elder Abuse Awareness Day takes place every year on the  15th  day of June as designated by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 66/127 of December 2011. These celebrations provide communities around the world with an opportunity to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness on the cultural, social, economic, health, environmental and demographic processes and circumstances affecting older persons. The 2021 WEAAD theme is “Access to Justice for Older Persons”.  Access to justice is a principle of the rule of law, a basic human right and a means to protect other human rights. In Kenya, timely and reasonable access to justice among older persons remains elusive. 

The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 (Article 260) defines an older member of society as a person  who has attained the age of sixty years. Although Kenya is largely composed of a youthful population, statistics show that the country is experiencing growth in the size and the proportion of the older members of society.  The 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census (KNBS, 2019) show that the population of persons aged 60 and above is 1.76 million.  This segment of the population has continued to increase over time for example from 5.4% of the total population in 1969 to 5.8% of the population in 2019.

Kenya has put in place several  policies and administrative measures to protect and promote the rights of older persons.  The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 provides explicit rights, entitlements and privileges for older persons with specific obligations to the State and family. Article 57 obligates the State to take measures to ensure older persons’ participation, personal development, dignity, respect and protection from abuse. The Article further obligates the State together with the family, to provide care and reasonable assistance to older persons. Article 21 (3) obligates State organs and public officers to address the needs of older persons and other vulnerable groups, whereas Article 27 (4) promotes and safeguards equality and non-discrimination of older persons. Article 43 (3) requires the State to provide for the economic and social rights for all persons including social security to older persons. Other Provisions in the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 that provide for the rights of all citizens including older members of society include; Article 26 on the right to life, Article 28 on the right to dignity and respect, and Article 40 on right to property.

Kenya is a Member State of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which stipulate that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) roots for  promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Further, Kenya is in the process of ratifying the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of older persons in Africa.

Kenya has since 2012 implemented the National Social Protection Policy (2011) that seeks to ensure that all Kenyans live in dignity and exploit their human capabilities for their own social and economic development. In 2015 Kenya commenced the implementation of the National Policy on Older Persons and Ageing (2014), which seeks to provide an environment that recognizes, empowers, and facilitates older persons to participate in society and enjoy their rights, freedoms and live in dignity.  More recently, on 5th July 2017, Kenya launched an innovative social assistance unconditional cash transfer program branded ‘Inua Jamii’ targeting old persons of ages 70 years and above.

It is important to note, that the country lacks specific legislative framework on older persons.  This points to a gap and perhaps relative lack of adequate and comprehensive attention to issues of older members of society within the context of pressing human and economic development needs.

Older members of society continue to suffer multiple violations of their rights primarily based on their age, disability, gender, residence, employment status, and perceived value and contributions to society.  In Kenya, older persons are easy targets of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. A majority of them are frail, vulnerable and have to depend on their families, relatives and friends for support. Often their dignity is not guaranteed.  A report by the National Gender and Equality Commission on the plight of older members of society (2017), revealed that issues affecting older members of the society are diverse and interlinked. They range from health, emotional abuse, neglect, economic deprivation, insecurity, denial to accessing justice, loneliness, involvement in property disputes, alleged to engaging in witchcraft, retrogressive cultural practices, drugs and substance abuse and over-dependency on family members, among others. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the country, older persons are exposed more to vulnerability and face multi-dimensional challenges including lack of adequate support from their families who may have lost livelihoods, the likelihood of contracting COVID-19, exposure to opportunistic infections, and loss of business opportunities among others.  These challenges are compounded especially where families are required to make decisions on competing needs in the context of reduced incomes and compromised livelihoods.

Despite these violations and challenges, access to justice has been vague to older persons as most of them are unaware of their  rights, others fear to report abuses because of their dependency on the abusers, lack of legal aid and resource required for representation in court. They also face structural barriers in accessing justice including in terms of physical courts and chain of justice (police, administrators), limited technological know-how where courts processes have been digitalized, delays in determination of cases, and lack of access to alternative dispute resolution mechanism and solutions.

As we observe this day, the Commission calls on all stakeholders for urgent action to address the plight of older members of society including facilitating their access to justice through deliberate awareness creation programs targeting older persons on their rights, provision of legal assistance, promotion of alternative dispute resolution mechanism among this population; elimination of barriers on accessibility to the built environment and court procedures; training of law enforcement organs at all levels to interpret and effectively enforce policies that protect the rights of older person among other actions. We also remind families, youth and communities of their core obligations to take care of older persons, offer reasonable support and assistance, and protect these groups from all forms of harm and exploitation.

In addition, the Commission applauds the Government for the bold steps it has taken towards ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of older persons in Africa. We look forward to the finalization of this process. The Commission calls upon the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection to develop the necessary legislative framework to ensure that older persons receive equal treatment and protection just like other populations.

The National Gender and Equality Commission remains committed to protecting the rights of older members of society, promoting their freedom from discrimination, and holding duty bearers to account for measures put in place to improve the accessibility to justice. The Commission reiterates that the older members of the society are an important segment of the population whose rights must be protected, respected and promoted by all. 

 Let us join hands and work together to ensure Access to Justice for Older Persons

Thank You.


Dr. Joyce M. Mutinda (PhD)





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