MDAC launches major report on decision-making rights for Kenyans with mental disabilities

This morning in Nairobi, MDAC launched a major in-depth study on disability and decision-making in Kenya, the first report in Africa which brings out the voices of people with disabilities themselves. You can read the report at:

Uncovering systemic human rights violations against people with mental disabilities, the report calls on the Kenyan government to take urgent actions to guarantee the right to legal capacity. This means that instead of decisions being stripped from people labelled with disabilities, everyone should be empowered to be the authors of their own lives, in line with its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The launch highlighted the voices of people with mental disabilities themselves (c) MDAC

‘The Right to Legal Capacity in Kenya’ is the result of three years of research, collecting testimonies from people with intellectual disabilities and people with psycho-social disabilities from across the country. It highlights the human rights violations many experience in families and the community, as well as in psychiatric hospitals. These including being denied education, subjected to sexual violence, forced medical treatment, denial of access to justice and life-long social stigmatisation. Importantly the report also shows the way in which negative stereotypes are reflected in Kenyan law.

The story of Atieno, a woman with an intellectual disability from rural KenyaThe story of Atieno, a woman with an intellectual disability from rural Kenya (c) MDAC

Yusuf, whose story is featured in the report spoke at today’s launch event and asked the key question, “Why can’t I have human rights like anyone else?”

Andrew, aka 'Yusuf' from the report, spoke about discrimination faced on a daily basis by Kenyans with mental health issues (c) MDAC

The report highlights the social restrictions placed on people with mental disabilities, and the extent to which other people make decisions in their lives. Florence Simbiri Jaoko, former Chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and author of the foreword to the report, called for the development of supported decision making for people with mental disabilities.

“As communities and individuals we have collectively hindered the space and opportunities for people with disabilities, through our judgmental and intolerant attitudes.”

Attending the launch were self-advocates with intellectual disabilities, users and survivors of psychiatry, judges, staff from the Kenya National Human Rights Commission and MDAC’s partner organisations – Kenyan Association for the Intellectually Handicapped and Users and Survivors of Psychiatry Kenya.

The event drew significant attention from Kenyan media (c) MDAC

Eyong Mbuen, MDAC’s Legal Officer explained that Kenyan law systematically discriminates against people with mental disabilities:

“Many people don’t even have a birth certificate, nor are they granted identifications documents. If you don’t even have a birth certificate you are not recognised by the law”.

Ten recommendations are made to the Kenyan government that could transform the lives of people with mental disabilities throughout Kenya. These include:

  • Initiation of public awareness raising campaigns on the rights of people with mental disabilities
  • Immediately granting identification documents to people with mental disabilities and using this to plan services to support them to make decisions in their lives
  • Delete discriminatory terms from Kenyan legislation, including ‘unsound mind’ and ‘mental incapacitation’
  • Ensure that legal capacity is recognised in all areas of the lives of people with disabilities
  • Tackle high rates of abuse, violence and exploitation, particularly against women and children with mental disabilities who frequently experience double discrimination


MDAC wishes to thank everyone who attended the launch event and all those who contributed to the research and report. You can download the report, an EasyRead version of the report, and two storyboards from

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