Babies for hire during General Election
A look at the long queues during the just concluded General Election was evidence of the determination of many Kenyans who wanted to exercise their democratic right.
Despite the determination, long queues and delays, a number of people resorted to “hire–a- baby” tactic so that they could avoid the long queues. This tactic was being employed by a few Kenyans because those with babies or in need of special assistance are given preferential treatment during voting.
Different scenarios were captured on social media that turned into a sense of humour of many of the platforms. Pictures of men and women carrying babies on their backs were circulated including those carrying puppies on their backs but little is known to them on the rights and protection of such children.
Although many of the comments raised on social media sounded like an opportunity for babies to enjoy outings, little consideration was given to the kind of environment including exposing them to the adverse weather conditions and crowds.
It has not been ascertained whether the babies were hired or rented for a fee or borrowed but the question is whether there was any consideration for the children’s interest at the polling stations.
The Constitution in Article 53 (2) provides that a child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child. Section 4 (2) of the Children’s Act provides that in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
The same principle of a child’s best interest is also provided for in the Convention on the Rights of the Child under Article 3.
In response to this tactic, officials from the Interim Boundaries and Elections Commission (IEBC) took several measures to ensure voting was smooth and some polling station officials resulted to inking babies’ fingers to ensure they are not misused on the day.
Despite questions on why babies fingers were marked and yet they were not voters, media reports noted that there is no mention on children’s participation in the elections. However, children are allowed to accompany their parents or guardians as long as they don’t mark ballot papers.
According to the Children’s Act 2001, a child is entitled to protection from physical and psychological abuse, neglect and any other form of exploitation including sale, trafficking or abduction by any person.
Article 10, Section 5 of the Act stipulates that any situation where there is in existence a contract for services where the party providing the services is a child whether the person using the services does so directly or by agent in liable to prosecution
This raises the need for awareness creation on the parental responsibility and penalties for child exploitation.
“This information should be included during civic education to educate the public on the rights of the child,” says Jane Onyango, a women’s rights activist in Kibra Constituency.
It therefore, calls for IEBC to start thinking of how children can accompany parents or guardians without being tossed around like a ball by those who feel that they can misuse a child by having them changing hands among unscrupulous voters.