, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 7 – Kenya has pledged to decriminalise homosexuality and combat any sort of prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender at the ongoing eighth session of the Universal Periodic Review on human rights at Geneva’s Palais des Nations.
The country, whose human rights issues were scrutinised on Thursday by peers however admitted that it faced serious social intolerance towards homosexuals.
Kenya which was represented by a 14-member delegation led by Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo also promised to strengthen women rights and eliminate child labour and early marriages.
A report on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) website shows that Kenya has also admitted that cultural barriers remain an obstacle in dealing with gender and social discrimination and that it will take time before they are adequately dealt with.
During the review session which was facilitated by Egypt, Malaysia and Bangladesh, 24 member states took part in the discussion while 31 observed.
The country was also asked to address ethnic and religious tensions and pursue efforts to combat poverty.
The OHCHR website also shows that Kenya is committed to ridding herself of extra judicial killings and impunity as well as to investigate and prosecute those guilty of such acts.
The country has also been lauded for enhancing legislative measures and awareness campaigns against women discrimination and for providing funds in support of women’s socio-economic initiatives.
Questions on the investigations and prosecution of perpetrators of the post-election violence, protection of witnesses, harassment and attacks of human rights defenders, human rights abuses by police forces, corruption, sexual violence and trafficking of women and children were however raised.
Kenya was asked to pursue her constitutional reforms, ensure that those responsible for post-election violence were held accountable, improve accountability with a view to eradicating impunity and to fully implement police reforms.
Other recommendations were; take measures to prevent extra judicial killings, criminalise female genital mutilations, reinforce protection of vulnerable groups- notably children with specific needs, raise penal responsibility of minors to 18 years, strengthen the independence of the Judiciary, definitely abolish the death penalty and establish an independent witness protection agency free of political influence.
On a positive note, was the Proposed Constitution which dedicated a whole chapter to protecting human rights and freedoms, Judicial and police reforms being undertaken, measures to combat gender-based discrimination, the setting up of a commission of inquiry on the post-election violence, establishment of legal provisions to protect children against abuse and the National Cohesion and Integration Act to outlaw discrimination on ethnic grounds.
Kenya also scored favourably on prison reforms to improve management of penitentiaries and conditions of detention, initiatives to tackle poverty, free primary and secondary education with an increase in school enrolment, measures to improve safe motherhood and new-born survival as well as the setting up of a HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act.
Kenya was also lauded for undertaking constitutional and electoral reforms and for cooperation with the International Criminal Court.
The review is established under the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/251 of March 15 2006.
Both the proposed and current constitutions outlaw same sex relations and unions.