Right to freedom
Besides our right to health, it is important to have the right to freedom (Article 29 CoK). This means that nobody has the right to lock someone up. There are instances where people with epilepsy are kept indoors; this violates their right to freedom and movement (Article 39 CoK). This may take place if family members feel embarrassed about the condition, or if they are afraid that something bad will happen outdoors when the person with epilepsy gets a seizure. It is important for them to get educated that most people with epilepsy live an active life as long as they take the treatment as prescribed by the doctor, and that epilepsy is nothing to feel embarrassed about. It can happen to anyone at any place and time. People with epilepsy need their interaction outdoors as much as anyone else, and deserve to have the freedom to choose what they want to do with their lives.
Right to Security
While we make use of our freedom, we also have the right to security wherever we spend our time (Article 29 CoK). This means that nobody has the right to torture anyone in any manner, whether physically (such as beating or pinching) or psychologically (such as humiliating or scaring someone with words). There are various reasons why people carry out attacks. Some do it for criminal purposes; during a robbery. Others do it out of disagreement; on a small scale, a fight between two people or on a larger scale, the Post-Election Violence in 2008 that involved the whole country.We all have the right to security, not only when we are outdoors at school, work, in church or when you visit friends, but also indoors. This means that you are not allowed to be beaten or spanked by your parents, even if it’s with the intention to discipline you. This is an argument which is often given; that spanking is necessary to teach children, youngsters or even a partner morals. However, according to Article 29 CoK this is no longer legal.While we have the right to security, we also have the obligation not to attack people. This means that when you’re annoyed, you don’t express your anger through aggression, but through dialogue. Violence doesn’t solve conflict, but dialogue helps in creating the understanding for each other and assists in finding a solution together. In order to resolve conflicts amicably it is advisable to wait until tempers cool down before confronting your contender.People above eighteen are eligible to report to the police, because they are capable of giving an account of what happened. However, when one is bellow eighteen, the police can even arrest the offender based on the evidence of other witnesses who are older than eighteen.According to the Kenyan Constitution, every person has the right to accessible and adequate housing, and to reasonable standards of sanitation (Article 43.1b CoK). However, you are expected to arrange for your own housing, but if you are a minor, then it’s your parents’ responsibility.While we have the right to accessible housing, we also have the right to have our privacy in this housing (Article 31 CoK). People with epilepsy who are hindered in their day-to-day activities can make use of Article 19 and 22 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). It states that they have the right to live independently and to be included in the community while they also have the right to conduct their lives in private as their privacy must be honored and protected. This same Convention requires that people with epilepsy have the right to choose their place of residence, where and with whom they live, on an equal basis with others, and they are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement (Article 19a, CRPD).
Freedom of opinion, expression and choice
As we grow up, we’re taught values and norms; what is right and what is wrong. These values and norms are not fixed, in every culture they are different, and even among individuals there are differences. There is a difference between facts and opinions. Facts are fixed, and can’t be negotiated. We do not need to discuss if red is a color. It’s a fact that red is a color. Instead, we can discuss if red is a beautiful color, because this is just an opinion, and not a fact. You may love the color red, while someone else strongly dislikes it. The good thing is that we have the right to have our own opinion, to disagree with people and to speak this out (Articles 19 and 33 CoK).The fact that you have a different opinion doesn’t have to create a problem. It would only become a problem if someone denies another person their right to speak for themselves. It’s important that everyone has the space to share their opinion inasmuch as it’s everyone’s role to give space to others to also share theirs. Finally, whatever other people’s opinion is, you have the right to choose for yourself what you stand for and what you want to do in life. The right to choice doesn’t mean that everything is offered to you to achieve your wishes. Your choices need to be realistic and achievable as it shouldn’t conflict with the rights of others either.
Freedom of conscience and religion
Just as we are allowed to have our own opinion, each of us also has the right to have our own conscience and religion. There are various views of what is the right conscience and religion, but conscience and religion is something you can choose for yourself, it's not something you are born with.In the Constitution every person has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion. Nobody can deny anyone access to any institution, employment or facility because of a belief, just as nobody can force you to act, or engage in any act that is contrary to your believes (Article 32 CoK).
Right to education
According to (Articles 53 and 55 CoK ) the state has a responsibility to ensure that the youth (between the ages 18 and 35) have access to relevant education and training). When you want to get education, you have equal rights as others to attend school. This means that you have the right to free primary education as a child (until the age 18). Therefore, nobody is allowed to deny you access to education; teachers at school and care takers need to give support for a young person’s attendance at school.While the primary education is free for children, you may have to pay for Secondary education and other forms of schooling. The Kenyan Government is obligated to ensure that the required costs don’t hinder your access to education. Schools are required to give equal chances to attend classes to all children and youth. This means that they are not allowed to deny anyone admission because of their epilepsy. However, when teachers feel someone needs extra assistance in their education, they may refer them to a special school.
When you are hindered in your day-to-day activities due to your epilepsy, you have the right to access educational institutions and facilities that are integrated into society with your interests (Article 54 CoK). This means that the Kenyan Government has a responsibility to provide you with the chance to attend a school where they can give you the right assistance during seizures, and also where you have the chance to get good education.
Let’s take a look at Evans who knows that he has the right to education:Evans wants to go to school, but his father wants him to stay home because of his seizures.
Dad: Evans, you had better not go to school, you may get a seizure again. People will gossip about the wrongdoings of our family.
Evans: But I need to go to school to learn, otherwise I won’t pass the exams.
Dad: No! It would be an embarrassment if you get a seizure and everyone watches.
Evans: But it’s my right to go to school, and it’s my teachers’ duty to give me first aid when I get my seizure at school. I don’t think my epilepsy is an embarrassment, it’s not our choice and it’s not our wrongdoing, it can happen to anyone.
Dad: Yes, but it’s also your right to be protected from harm. It’s too much of a risk to you when you go to school while you can get a seizure. You’re not sure if people will assist you during the seizure.
Evans: We can speak with the teacher, and inform them how they can assist me during the seizure. I can go to school together with my friend Sam, if I get a seizure we know that he will help me.
Dad: Well, let’s see what the teacher has to say. Let’s consult them next week to find the best solution where we do not take too many risks.
Right to social interaction
Social interaction is one of the most important needs in life. Social interaction is what we all need to achieve all our other rights, such as the right to have a family, the right to express your opinion and the right to education. Epilepsy is not a reason for people to be excluded in social gatherings. People with epilepsy can go for education, sports, religious meetings and all other sorts of social gatherings just like anyone else. The condition doesn't take away one's right to take part in these meetings. The right to community integration is even specifically protected in the International Bill of Rights.
Whose responsibility is it then to have people with epilepsy participating in all social gatherings? Is it the Government's, the people who don't have epilepsy, or is it the responsibility of the people with epilepsy? According to the constitution, all people have the right to be treated equally. Therefore, people with epilepsy need to take initiative to be socially active as much as anyone else and other people have a responsibility not to deny their attempts to take part in social events.
Let’s take a look at Evans who knows that he has the right to education:Evans wants to go to school, but his father wants him to stay home because of his seizures.
We mentioned earlier that, in some cases, people with epilepsy are encouraged to stay indoors, as the family may feel embarrassed about the condition. This is not accepted since every person has the right to freedom (Article 29 CoK). In cases where the family is not open about the condition and wants to hide the family member with epilepsy, we encourage them to seek advice from the doctor and maybe even counselors to get to know that epilepsy is nothing to feel embarrassed about and that they can easily participate in social activities just like everyone else.
Another reason they stay indoors is that, people with epilepsy sometimes have low self-esteem because of the seizures they experience and may lack the courage to take the initiative to socialize. According to the CRPD (article 26), the Government is responsible to take effective and appropriate measures. This includes peer support to enable persons with disabilities, to attain and maintain maximum independence and full inclusion and participation in all aspects of their life. Fortunately, there are various local initiatives where people with epilepsy can take part in, and be encouraged to overcome the challenges in order to take part in social interactions.
Right to love, sex and marriage
The Constitution states that everyone, including people with epilepsy, has the right to equality (Article 27 CoK). This means that everyone has the right to decide whether they want to be close with someone. Whether or not you have epilepsy, you have the choice to allow or deny intimacy.When you get to know someone well and you feel that the person is the type you'd like to be close with, it's advisable to be open about who you are; your strengths and challenges. It is your right not to tell them you have epilepsy, but how can they assist you during a seizure when you do not inform them about it? They may feel disappointed that you kept it a secret to them, and therefore, they may decide to leave you.
The choice is yours, although we encourage you to be open about your health since epilepsy is nothing to feel embarrassed about. We believe that a person, who truly loves you, will take you with all your strengths and challenges. Just remember that epilepsy is a small part of who you are. It's neither your character nor your personality; it is only a disruption in your brain when you have a seizure. Take time to explain what it is, so people understand you better and be there for you, for better and worse.
Intimacy and intimidation
In our interaction with people, we all have our preferences about whom we want to spend our time with. There are people with whom we want to be close to and people we’d rather keep at a distance. People may get close to you with or without your consent. Intimacy is being close out of your own choice; intimidation is being harassed by someone.Sometimes people say that girls actually mean YES when they say NO. Nonetheless, the reality is that everyone has to respect and accept someone's 'no' to intimacy.Intimidation is not allowed by law, nobody is allowed to get intimate with you against your own will. When someone begins to get physically close to you against your will, you can start by being assertive and speaking out where your boundary is, you can say:
- I like you as my friend, but I don't want you to touch my thighs;
- I know that the matatu is full, but I still don't want you to hang so much over my shoulders;
- I think you are standing very close to me, l prefer more distance;
- I know we are "brothers and sisters in Christ", but you don’t have to hug me.
The person to whom you speak can offer apologies and avoid any repetition, or they may do it again. If it happens again, you can be more clear and firm in your statement. Your own boundary is to be appreciated regardless of their opinion.When the person doesn't respect your boundary, then the person doesn't respect your right. When you miss the chance to defend yourself, it's important to seek assistance.
Triza and Sam are good friends, but Sam likes Triza so much that he wants to be closer to her. He starts hugging her and wants to kiss her.
Triza: Hey, I don't want you to kiss me.
Sam: But I like you, I need to express my love.
Triza: You can also express your love through words. If I don't want you to hug and kiss me, you need to keep off of me. I have the right to give my boundary and you have the obligation to respect that.
Sam: Why are you being so difficult? Can't you just simply enjoy it? You are really fragile!
Triza: I know I’m not fragile, but simply telling you what I want and don't want. I know it’s my right to choose when I want to get intimate. When I give my limits, you need to respect this to be able to be my friend.
People have various reasons to have sex. They may want to have sex to show their love for someone. Other people may do it out of curiosity to know how it feels. These are examples of those who want to do it out of free will. Unfortunately sometimes people do it for other reasons such as peer pressure to be a ‘real man’ or to be an 'experienced woman'. Or they may give in to having sex out of fears to lose the person they love; fearing that he or she will take off if they postpone the sexual intercourse.Remember to always and very carefully, ask yourself if you are certain that you want to have sex. Don't have sex just because you think that everyone else is doing it, or to give in to pressure from friends or adults. If you are uncertain about what you should do in such a situation, wait and speak about it with an adult whom you trust and ask their advice.
Sex is only allowed when you're both supporting the act, and legally when both of you are above 18 years old. When you are 18 years or older, and have sex with someone who is younger than 18, you can be prosecuted and jailed for this, even when both of you were supporting the act.
NB: The Sexual Offences Act requires that everyone has to take reasonable steps (for instance asking for an I.D. document especially where the age cannot be ascertained just from looking) to ensure that the person they have sex with, is over 18.
According to the Kenyan Constitution, every adult has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex, based on the free consent of the parties (Article 45 CoK). This right cannot be hindered due to someone's ethnicity, nationality, and religion or health status (Article 27 CoK).The Constitution also states that every person, which includes a person with epilepsy, is equal and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law (Article 27 CoK). Having epilepsy doesn't take away the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to be addressed in a manner which is not demeaning (Article 54 CoK). Therefore people with epilepsy have equal rights to get married and to start a family.When you’re married, both partners have equal rights; both are responsible to take good care of each other. This means that having epilepsy doesn't change your position.
Pregnancy & Abortion
Most people with epilepsy can get children. Like anyone else, they have the legal right to sex from the age of 18, and therefore the right to become parents from 18 years of age. In most cases, the epilepsy doesn't affect the health of the children. Epilepsy is therefore no reason to be denied the chance to get children.When planning to become a parent, seek medical advice. This is because anti-epileptic drugs sometimes need to be adjusted to ensure that the baby is not affected.
It is your right to choose when you're ready to become a parent. It’s not your parents or your spouse alone who tell you when the timing is right. Both you and your partner must feel ready to take the responsibility for pregnancy and the upbringing of the children.When you do not feel ready to get children, you need protection from pregnancy as much as anyone else. You can decide to abstain from sex until you feel ready to get children. When you do not want to abstain from sex, you can choose out of various ways to prevent pregnancy:
- Male or female condom;
- Contraceptive coil (IUD, intrauterine device);
- Contraceptive pill;
- Contraceptive injection.
Even though they all work to prevent pregnancy, it is only the first that can also prevent infection from STDs. The last three options can be used in a relationship where the couple is faithful and don't share the bed with other partners.
A may couple may have unprotected sex, or if they may use a condom, but it brakes. In such a case the woman may conceive within the first 72 hours after intercourse/having sex.In such cases there are various measures the woman can take to avoid unplanned and unwanted, pregnancy. One of the options is the emergency contraceptive, which must be taken within 72 hours after sexual intercourse. When no action is taken within the first 72 hours, then there is only the option of abortion to end the pregnancy; in countries and situations where it is legally accepted.According to the Kenyan Constitution, abortion is not permitted, unless there is need for emergency treatment in the opinion of a trained health professional or the life or health of the mother is in danger (Article 26.4 CoK).
People who are married may experience challenges in their relationship, which can lead them to consider divorce. The court can approve a divorce if both parties show that there is no love between them anymore, after a minimum of three years marriage.According to the Matrimonial Causes Act (Section 8), a person is not allowed to divorce you because of your epilepsy. A person would only be allowed to leave you if you have become of incurable unsound mind while you've been under care and treatment for a period of at least five years. Most people with epilepsy are not mentally challenged, and it can therefore not be said that they are of unsound mind. When you are in a marriage where you are not secure; for example because you are denied your freedom or good care by your partner, then you have the right to leave the house. Safety comes first. When you cannot find a solution together, it may be better to file for divorce than to stay in the same situation where your safety is not assured.
The person requesting for divorce must prove to the court that the divorce is justified. The party must prove that their case fits within one of the few grounds for divorce. A divorce can be approved if the partner has:
- Committed adultery;
- Left their partner without cause for a period of at least three years;
- Treated their partner with cruelty; or
- If the partner is incurably of unsound mind and has been continuously under care and treatment for a period of at least five years.
Right to work
Nobody has the right to deny you a job because of your epilepsy. People are only allowed to deny you a job if your epilepsy causes risks in their performance of your job, and there is nothing they can do to make it possible for you to do the work (what the law calls reasonable accommodation). For example, the owner of a matatu or taxi can deny you a job as a driver because of the chance that you get a seizure while you drive. However, they cannot deny you a job as a receptionist because you have epilepsy: epilepsy does not hinder you from answering phones or receiving visitors./p>
Right to Driving
Everyone who wants to drive a car needs to pass the tests for a driving license. But is it wise to drive if you can get a seizure? How can you decide if you can safely drive a car? Can you drive yourself from home to work? Or is this too dangerous due to the chance that you may get a seizure? In many countries people who experience seizures during daytime lose the legal right to drive.Some people think they can drive safely because they get an aura before the seizure occurs. However, what will you do when you drive along a superhighway as you get the aura? You may not have enough time to drive to a safe place to park your car. The risk of having an accident because of your seizure is greatly reduced in people who have been seizure free for 12 months. Therefore many countries allow you to drive if you’ve been seizure free for a year.
In Kenya, there are no clear rules on your right to drive a car when you have seizures. However, we highly encourage you to make a wise decision. If you get a seizure while driving, you risk not only your own safety, but also the safety of other people on the road.
Is it punishable when your epilepsy seizure led to a traffic accident and harmed people?
You’re taking a great risk if you decide to drive when you know that you may get a seizure. If you get an accident because of your seizure, and you knew of the chance of getting a seizure, you can be held accountable for this despite the fact that you did not choose to have the seizure. You are expected to be responsible enough to make wise decisions such as whether or not to drive a car. Therefore people can take you to court.
Right in Politics
People with epilepsy also have equal rights to participate in politics. Everyone above the age of 18 has the right to vote during elections or during a referendum (Article 38 CoK).The Kenyan Constitution now requires that Parliament promotes the political representation of vulnerable communities in Parliament. These vulnerable communities involve; women, persons with disabilities, youth, and ethnic as well as other minorities and marginalized communities (Article 100 CoK) states (View Diagram):In addition, everyone also has the right to form a political party or to be active in a political party (Article 38.1).
Every political party has the obligation to respect the right of all persons to participate in the political process, including minorities and marginalized groups (Article 91.e).People with epilepsy have the right to take part in active politics, a position that gives them power to not only represent the minority of people living with epilepsy but also to be part of the policy makers of a country. This means that people with epilepsy or any disability (visible or invisible) can hold public office and represent the masses if nominated or elected by following due process as required by the legitimate electoral body.