Juvenile justice – Kisumu County

The Oslo Center is currently conducting a baseline study in Kisumu County in Kenya. The purpose of the study is to map the situation for children in the juvenile justice system and in the diversion system, i.e.  children in conflict with or in contact with the law, in Kisumu County.

Most children coming into contact with the law come from poor and marginalized backgrounds, with an estimated 80-85% of these children being so-called welfare cases. Many of these children are street children, coming from poor families or being orphans, and as such extremely vulnerable to violence, abuse or exploitation. Thus, they easily end up in contact with the justice system. According to a UNICEF study, the majority of children in conflict with the law have actually committed relatively minor offenses, which could be linked to survival efforts.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child underlines the importance of excluding children from criminal responsibility, avoiding judicial proceedings and developing alternatives to institutional care. Such principles have been domesticated into Kenyan law through the Children Act 2001 and article 53 of the Constitution. Between 2001 and 2007, Save the Children Sweden developed and piloted a diversion program in Kenya, including Kisumu County. Despite the achievements made during that program period, it is unsure how sustainable these efforts have been.

The Oslo Center has chosen Kisumu as a pilot county. Kisumu is an important county when it comes to addressing the issue of street children, and this county was also included in the previous diversion program. In our baseline study we wish to identify the current challenges the juvenile justice system in the county is facing, including the diversion system, in order to identify measures to address these challenges.  The results of the baseline study, expected to be finalized by 1 April 2013, will feed into the development of a pilot project on strengthening the child protection system in Kisumu County.

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