MPs line of questioning violated rights of elderly

Friday, November 6th, 2020 00:00 |
Parliament in session. Photo/PD/FILE

Where is the Kenya Human Rights Commission? Where is the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights?

Where is the Law Society of Kenya? These bodies, both private and statutory, are mandated to ensure that the rights of Kenyans are not abused and that no citizen is discriminated against.

But that task does not belong to them alone. Across the breadth of this city, there is no shortage of non-State and State operators at short call to defend rights.

It may be the rights of the media, rights of association, of free speech and of dressing.

The rights of women to breastfeed in public is among those that have been defended from time to time.

There is however one category of people, the elderly, who are often subjected to abuse without a finger being raised in return.

In political discourses, leaders mount public platforms and declare that access to certain social services, are limited to only a group of citizens, for example, the young. 

There is no wonder the efforts of old people trying to appear young, if only to avoid being pigeonholed.

Individuals past their half century, still positioning themselves as youth leaders, is a statement of the fear of passing into the age bracket, against whom discrimination has become legitimised either by commission or omission.

This past week, candidates for appointment to diplomatic posts were subjected  to some of the most discriminatory questions one could find anywhere.

The MPs wanted to know why the candidates, particularly those in their 60s, wanted the jobs when there are young Kenyans who should be considered for the posts.

Right thinking Kenyans should bow in shame that the National Assembly, of all the organs in the nation’s governance structure, would seek to provide the platform from which discrimination against some Kenyans on account of their age should be mounted. 

Discrimination is discrimination, whatever shade it comes through. Whether on age, wealth, gender, religion, tribe, skin colour, dress or  political affiliation.

In the past there have been statements to let women dress as they please-the my dress my choice slogan.

As we understand it, part of the initiative in BBI is to address the problem of lack of gender balance in our public appointments. 

This country fights for the rights of the girl-child and the rights of children in general.

United Nations recognised these rights in its 1948 declaration. The global agency defines human rights as “rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.

Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work, education and many more.  Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.”

The line of questioning that the parliamentary committee adopted singled out these appointees for discrimination on the basis of their age, and thus saying that because of their age, they have no right to work and no right to represent their country.  

While these presentations were open, the agencies dotting the breadth of this land, should have raised their voices to chide the legislators for their discriminative line of interrogation, but where? 

These legislators, for their lack of recognition of the rights of all humans and failure to defend the same, should lose the privilege of sitting at the national assembly, where laws that govern this land are debated and passed.

There is nothing, going by what their questions proposed, to suggest that they would not pass laws that would discriminate against old people.

A nation’s civility is demonstrated in how it treats its citizens, particularly the least of them all. —The writer is dean , School of Communication, Daystar University

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