The 2019 Violence Against Children Survey suggests that among Kenyan children aged 13 to 17, 13.5 percent of females and 2.4 percent of males reported experiencing sexual violence in the last year. Moreover, among women aged 18 to 24, 15.6 percent reported experiencing child sexual violence, with 62.6 percent of those respondents experiencing multiple incidents before turning 18. Roughly two-thirds of survivors who experienced child sexual violence indicated that they did not know where to go for help, despite the fact that the Kenyan government has enacted a wide range of legal protections. Chiefly, Kenya’s constitution outlines the rights of children, and the Children Act, first introduced in 2001, contains specific measures to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. The Children Act was most recently amended in 2022 to address online abuse, harassment, and exploitation. Additional relevant laws include the 2011 Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, the 2010 Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act, and the 2006 Sexual Offences Act, among others.
To enforce these rights and laws, the government has issued national-level strategic plans that direct action on child sexual abuse (CSA). Most recently, these include the National Prevention and Response Plan on Violence against Children in Kenya 2019-2023 and the National Plan of Action to Tackle Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Kenya 2022–2026, which outline goals and priorities for combating CSA, responsibilities among the relevant government entities, and key indicators for tracking progress. These measures are complemented by the National Care Reform Strategy for Children in Kenya, 2022–2032, which details Kenya’s system for caring for children separated from their families or at risk of separation. The government entities that bear the greatest direct responsibility for these plans include the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection’s Department of Children Services and National Council for Children’s Services (NCCS), while those with secondary roles include the State Department for Gender, the National Gender and Equality Commission, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Kenya Police Service, the Judiciary, and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The State Department for Social Protection (SDSP), within the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, is the primary government entity responsible for counteracting and responding to CSA nationwide. The SDSP’s work related to children is directed by the sub-component Department of Children’s Services, which drafted the National Prevention and Response Plan, coordinates the execution of the plan’s various pieces, and operates other relevant services such as the Child Protection Information Management System. While national budget estimates do not specify funding for the Department of Children’s Services specifically, they do specify programmatic areas relevant to CSA, such as child protection and support.
The SDSP’s contributions to prevent and respond to CSA are primarily contained within the budget lines “Child community support services” and “Child rehabilitation and custody,” which include issue areas such as “management of statutory children institutions,” “family protection policy,” “policies on children and social development,” “counter trafficking in persons,” and “children welfare and penal protection,” among others. In the FY 2022–23 budget estimate, these two children-focused funding lines—totaling KES 3.1 million—amounted to 8.3 percent of the SDSP’s total funding of KES 34.7 million. Funding has fluctuated over recent years, falling significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, but is trending upward overall, with funding for “Child community support services” set to be roughly 21 percent larger in FY 2024–25, compared to FY 2018–19. By contrast, funding for “Child rehabilitation and custody” is set to decline slightly, by around 10 percent, over the same period. Importantly, neither of these funding areas is specific to CSA, so the exact scope of their contribution to fighting CSA remains unclear. (See Figure 1.)
Ministry of Labor — State Department for Social Protection
Another key entity within the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection is the National Council of Children Services (NCCS), which was established by the Children Act of 2001. The council is charged with overseeing the planning, financing, and coordination of the government’s efforts to protect children’s rights, including through the formulation of legal and policy approaches. Funding specific to the NCCS is not clarified within national budget estimates, although its central role as the intermediary between the SDSP and all other government entities is relevant to the National Prevention and Response Plan. (See Figure 2.)
Coordination Structure of the National Prevention and Response Plan on Violence Against Children
Data Source: National Prevention and Response Plan.
Kenya’s State Department for Gender is tasked with creating policies and addressing issues related to gender discrimination, which includes a broad focus on gender mainstreaming but also specific efforts on addressing gender-based violence (GBV), including female genital mutilation (FGM), which is a persistent challenge and relevant to CSA. The FY 2022–23 budget estimate specifies relevant programmatic efforts—such as developing a directory for GBV service providers, creating an FGM resource handbook, and aiding the technical implementation of FGM and GBV policy across agencies—but does not specify funding allocations specific to these issue areas.
“Gender empowerment” accounts for almost 40 percent of the department’s overall funding, but specificity on these funding priorities does not go beyond the sub-categories of “Gender mainstreaming” and “Gender and socio-economic empowerment.” As such, it is difficult to assess what proportion of funding is being directed toward CSA-specific activities and initiatives. Additionally, while the other main spending categories within the State Department of Gender—“Community development” and “General administration, planning and support services”—remained relatively stable through the COVID-19 pandemic, “Gender empowerment” faced significant cuts, falling by 49.7 percent between FY 2019–20 and FY 2020–21, and has recovered slowly. Given current projected estimates, funding in FY 2024–25 will still be below FY 2018–19 levels. (See Figure 3.)
State Department of Gender
The National Equality and Gender Commission (NGEC), separate from the State Department for Gender, promotes gender equality and prevents discrimination by verifying government entities’ compliance with the country’s laws and policies. It takes particular interest in “Special Interest Groups,” which it defines as “women, persons with disability, children, youth, older members of society, [and] minority and marginalized groups.” While the FY 2022–23 budget estimate highlights some of the NGEC’s work that bears relevance to CSA—such as seeking to end GBV in 23 counties—the various budget estimates contain spending categories that are not issue-specific. This means it is impossible to tell what proportion of funding is relevant to children, let alone CSA.
National Gender and Equality Commission
Finally, there are a range of other government entities that have designated roles in preventing and responding to CSA—specified in the National Prevention and Response Plan—that do not specify any clear budgetary allocations for that purpose. These include: (1) the Ministry of Health, which provides support to victims of CSA and has published resources such as the 2018 National Standard Operating Procedures for the Management of Sexual Violence against Children; (2) the Ministry of Education, which helps to raise awareness about CSA issues and develop child protection within schools and communities; (3) the National Police Service, which enforces laws relevant to CSA; (4) the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which helps prosecute perpetrators; and (5) the Judiciary, which works to create child-safe legal environments that protect victims from re-traumatization.
For these institutions, budget estimates do not include allocations for activities specific to CSA or for child protection generally. Interviewees, such as Paul Adhoch, director of Trace Kenya, cautioned that while there are good laws and plans in place, the funding through many relevant entities is not yet sufficient. For example, regarding the police, he noted, “We have a specialized units that investigate children who are in trouble—but for the specialized units, there are only three stations in the whole country, with the fewest number of officers you can imagine.”
Kenya has prioritized CSA through successive strategies, including the National Prevention and Response Plan on Violence against Children in Kenya 2019–2023 and the National Plan of Action to Tackle Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Kenya 2022–2026, as well as clear leadership from the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection. The upshot of these broad national-level plans is the clear designation of authorities responsible for formulating and coordinating response measures to CSA both generally and in cyberspace. This level of organization contributes to Kenya’s relatively high rankings in the Out of the Shadows Index, including the highest ranking for any country in Africa and high scores for “National Capacity & Commitment” and “Support Services & Recovery” specifically. But even with these new strategies in place, there is a long way to go to deliver on the stated commitments, including through the allocation of resources to enable effective implementation. Amanda Manyame, a digital law and rights consultant with Equality Now, noted the larger societal challenge around changing perceptions related to child abuse and exploitation: “It’s not only telling the communities what the laws are but also trying to change the perspectives of the community. If the community has a certain perspective, the law is not necessarily going to be able to help.”
“It’s not only telling the communities what the laws are but also trying to change the perspectives of the community. If the community has a certain perspective, the law is not necessarily going to be able to help.”
Amanda Manyame, a digital law and rights consultant with Equality Now
Moreover, from a budgetary perspective, Kenya’s commitments to fighting CSA are difficult to establish, chiefly due to budget lines that are rarely specific to a particular issue. On the one hand, Kenya’s budgets offer a level of consistency that was rarely present in other case studies examined in Safeguarding Childhood, with all of the examined budget lines consistent from year to year over the FY 2018–19 to FY 2024–25 time period. This made it possible to compare spending for potentially relevant priorities across time. Additionally, budget estimates offered descriptive information about every government ministry and department, clarifying the relative role of each, which is not common in the budgets of other countries. On the other hand, vague budget lines—such as “Child community support services” and “Gender mainstreaming”—complicate understanding how spending may be divided up among adjacent priorities, such as CSA and countering human trafficking.
While the aforementioned strategic plans offer clear emphasis on CSA by name, they offer very little detail in terms of medium- or long-term budgetary commitments to meet their goals, often devoting a single paragraph or page to describe the funding approach without providing any specific values. According to Paul Adhoch, “Kenya has great policies, including the national plan of action, but in terms of implementing them and enforcing them, that’s where we have weaknesses.” Moving forward, Kenya could benefit from applying the same level of organizational clarity and documentation seen in its national CSA strategies to its budgetary commitments to operationalize those strategies and achieve their objectives.