Cultural Rights in the Kenyan Media

While the others are away in Kenya beginning the fieldwork that forms the core of the project’s research I am here in the UK. The closest I get to Kenya is reading the Kenyan newspapers. As part of the project research we are creating a database and electronic archive of news stories that relate to the themes of the research. Our consultant Gordon is mainly responsible for finding and forwarding news stories that relate in some way to constitutional rights and culture. However, all team members keep an eye out and we have found stories via our twitter feed, Facebook page and through our contacts. If you see a story that you think is relevant to our research please forward it to us.

It has been interesting to see how frequently issues relating to cultural rights end up in the Kenyan press and also the range of issues that relate back to the constitution. The first story to catch my eye was The Nation’s report on the 15th of September about whether or not a young boy could be compelled by his school to cut off his dreadlocks in compliance with the school’s dress code. The court sided with the school (The Standard, 08th October 2014). While a haircut may seem a trivial issue it mattered enough to the boy’s mother to take it to court and argue that the boy’s right to dreadlocks was protected by the constitution on the grounds that they were an important part of his father’s Jamaican culture. The assumption that dreadlocks should always be associated with Jamaican Rastafarian culture was questioned in The Standard (19th September) in an article which pointed out that Maasai and Turkana people also have dreadlocks. It did set me wondering about the place of immigrant’s cultures in Kenya, are they afforded the same protections and subject to the same regulations under the constitution?

Gender issues and women’s rights are the topic that seems to come up with most frequency and persistence in the media. We have found stories about the polygamy laws (Standard 22nd September), the marriage of underage girls (The Nation, 16th September), rites of passage in general and FGM in particular. There has been a flurry of interest in FGM lately. In October UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Kenya as part of the global campaign to eliminate the practice. In particular he exhorted the media to do their bit to change attitudes towards FGM which persists despite laws forbidding it (The Standard, 31st October).


As well as keeping an eye on the media the project’s activities have also occasionally appeared in the newspapers. On October the 4th Mshai Mwangola wrote a piece in The Star entitled Constitution And Culture: What It Means To Kenya as a result of the Storymoja panel he had chaired and in which both Lotte and Steve had participated. More recently Reuben Githinji reported that Lotte had been talking to Embu elders about their perception that the constitution neglected them and their role in society.

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