What should we do if someone crosses our boundaries? Should we discuss this with the person, or report these occurrences to the police? Rights help us understand what we can and cannot do, and hence what to expect and not expect of others. When one doesn’t respect these rights, we can demand them in an attempt to ensure they change their behavior.
In this chapter, we’ll discuss the following steps that you can take to secure your rights:
- Inform yourself about your rights;
- Speak up;
- Dialogue, finding compromise;
- Seek security;
- Seek medical assistance;
- Report to police;
- Seek support from Human Rights Advocates;
- Take one to court.
1 Inform Yourself about your Rights
Without knowledge of one’s rights, it’s impossible to know what to stand up for and so it is essential for everyone to learn about their rights.
Once in a while, laws that uphold rights change; like when the New Constitution was introduced in Kenya. It gave extra rights to vulnerable groups to be represented in parliament. Once in a while new Acts are endorsed (approved) by the parliament; updates of this are always available in the media. Following the media makes one well informed and enhances the ability to share information with others. Those who have access to the internet can search and access new laws by following the parliament or the Kenya Law Reporting Authority (KLRA) websites www.parliament.go.ke or www.kenyalaw.org respectively.
Another way of keeping yourself up to date is by regularly taking part in meetings of advocacy groups; they are usually the first to know about changes in law and they exist to share the knowledge with you. A good example is the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) which advocates for rights, and creates awareness in communities; these groups also exist at local/grassroots levels. It is therefore important to find which advocacy group operates in your local area and to participate or support their activities and efforts.
2. Speak Up
Once you’re well informed about your rights, it becomes easier to recognize a violation of rights, or situations in which rights are not being fully exercised. When people cross someone’s boundary, we can speak of confrontation. Confrontation can happen at any place and at any time, it can be a conflict in the family, in a love relationship, conflict at college or work, with a good friend or public officers. It can take place on the streets between strangers, individuals or opponents of political parties. It is important that everyone feels free to speak up and to share their opinion without any fear. Opinions cannot kill; it is the way people respond to them that matters. It’s our right to speak up and give our boundaries. It is also our obligation to give others space to speak for themselves and to respect their rights.
3.Dialogue, Finding Compromise
Sometimes when you speak up, and express your boundary, the other person may disagree, and present a counter argument. There are those who are of the opinion that a disagreement is an excuse for violence. However, there is never an excuse to be violent.
Steve Biko, the late human rights activist from South-Africa, was a campaigner for resolving conflict without violence. He believed that conflict and confrontation doesn’t have to lead to violence. This is portrayed in the bio-graphical movie Cry Freedom
A dialogue between Steve Biko and the State Prosecutor in Court
(Movie Cry Freedom):
Steve Biko: “We have to fill the black community with our own pride. We have to teach our black children black history; tell them about our black heroes, our black culture, so they don’t face the white man believing they are inferior. Then we’ll stand up to him in any way he chooses. Conflict, if he likes, but with an open hand, too, to say we can all build a South Africa worth living in; a South Africa for equals, black or white, a South Africa as beautiful as this land is, as beautiful as we are.”
State Prosecutor: Your own words demand for direct confrontation!
Steve Biko: That’s right, we demand confrontation.
State Prosecutor: Isn’t that a demand for violence?
Steve Biko: Well, you and I are now in a confrontation, but I see no violence.
There are instances in which people cross the line: you set your boundaries, but people don’t respect them. For example someone may want to be intimate with you and consequently act inappropriately. If these occurrences are consistent and the perpetrator persist’s violently, then dialogue alone is not enough. In such a case you have the right to defend yourself physically. There are various organizations that offer training on self-defense. Participating in these trainings will help you to learn how to respond effectively when you are assaulted, and this can give you more confidence. (See appendix for information about these organizations)
4. Seek Security
It is essential to seek the safety of public areas, like a shop when you’re in a threatening situation and you feel that you cannot defend yourself. These places offer the safety in numbers because you can walk in and ask for assistance. Avoid areas that put you at risk of being beaten, pushed, scratched, kicked, or even sexually abused. After an attack, the most important thing is to seek for a safe place that reduces the chances of a repeat attack. If you can, approach someone whom can stay with you until your safety is assured.
5. Seek Medical Assistance
When a violation of rights leads to physically harm, it is important to seek medical assistance. A medical officer will need to examine you and give you the treatment that you need. It is advisable not to wash yourself or change clothes before you go for treatment. In rape cases, there may be traces of the rapist’s DNA left on your body or clothes. The doctor can take samples of the DNA, as evidence against the person who assaulted you. The doctor may also prescribe emergency contraception and anti-retro viral, which can prevent pregnancies and infections such as HIV/AIDS respectively. The doctor will conduct a medical exam after which a report will be filled detailing the harm caused to you and you will have access to that report.
6. Report to the Police
When you are assaulted you are encouraged to report the matter at the nearest police station where they fill out a P3-form. They may ask you to go to a cyber cafe to download and print out the P3-form, or they may give you the form and ask you to make a copy.
The police will need your ID number (if you are an adult) and the doctor’s report. They will question you, write your report into the Occurrence Book (OB) and thereafter give you an OB-number. It is important that you keep this number properly so that you can produce it when the case is taken to court. If there was a witness, then they will be asked to record their statement.
If you were assaulted and there are traces of the person left on your clothes (e.g blood or sperm), then you need to give these clothes wrapped in newspaper (not nylon or plastic) to the police so that they can use it for examination, and as evidence. You need to go back to the doctor for them to fill in their medical report on the P3-form. After that ,deliver the P3-form to the police. We encourage you to keep a copy for yourself in case you want to follow up on the case.
Often people feel uncomfortable identifying the accused, because they fear that the accused will contradict their statement or may even want revenge. Take your time to decide what to do, and ask for support from someone you trust. You can report the case without giving details about the person until you feel confident enough about your security. You can ask for support in making the decision on how to follow up on the accused. All in all, it is advisable to report the case so the police can take action on the perpetrators to alleviate the threats they pose to you and society.
7. g Seek Support from Human Rights Advocates
When you realize that people do not respect your rights and you cannot sort it out with them personally or with the help of the police, then there are various institutions where you could seek assistance.
There are public and private institutions that offer free legal assistance. The KHRC (an NGO) and Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission (KNHRC) – a constitutional commission, are focused on all Human Rights issues, while others provide legal support to special groups, like children and women. Some organizations such as the “Child line” are easy to reach through phone (dial for free 116). In appendix page you can find information about the existing human rights advocacy organizations in case you wish to get in touch with them to receive support.
You could also seek the assistance of a lawyer who can inform you about your rights and how to seek justice when your rights are violated. A lawyer can represent you and take the case to court. However, most lawyers will require payment/compensation for their assistance necessitating one to first check on their charges and consider affordability.
8. Taking one to Court
Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
Article 10: Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.
When your rights have been violated and you have adequate evidence, you can proceed to court. A lawyer is able to explain the challenges and opportunities of filing the case. It is your personal right to decide whether or not you want to go to court. All human rights cases are free to file at the High Court. This however does not mean that the lawyer (should you choose to use one) will represent you in court for free. You have to agree on a fee with him or her. Everyone has the right to effective access to justice (Article 48). This even goes further, where extra assurance of this right is given for Persons with Disabilities – people hindered in their day-to-day activities due to physical and mental challenges.
We go to court, to seek a formal judgment that is, law-based. Judgments in Kenya are done by Magistrates and Judges of the Industrial Court, the Land & Environment court, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. The Supreme court is Kenya’s highest court which hears appeals from the Court of Appeal.