Kenya votes in new Constitution despite anti-choice fear-mongering

Kenyans are rejoicing today following a peaceful election. The New York Times reports that Wednesday’s referendum was “a much-needed boost of self-confidence for the country,” which had been torn apart by ethnic conflict, violence, and corruption in past recent elections.

It’s also exciting, from a feminist perspective, as millions of anti-abortion Catholics and evangelicals across Kenya tried to urge people to vote against the Constitution, saying it would lead to “abortion on demand.” (Like abortion when a woman elects to have it? Sounds just about right to me.) In any case, it appears that the voters were not scared away, largely voting in favor of the new Constitution despite the fear-mongering.

I thought of a meeting at the Women’s Media Center that I once attended where a Kenyan reproductive justice advocate urged her fellow activists and journalists to report the good news in Africa, rather than only dwelling on what goes wrong. She freely admitted that her country, in specific, and her continent, writ large, had struggles with violence and corruption, but said that she was sick of even her feminist sisters ignoring the triumphs and strengths. This one’s for you, Achola. Congrats.

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  • nazza

    Someone at the Yearly Meeting I have just returned from gave a lengthy report about this situation. It has particular importance for Quakers because the largest group of Friends in the world are found in Africa, particularly Kenya.

    This is as a result of Evangelical Friends and their ministry. It’s a delicate two-step. Evangelical Friends are usually very conservative, very concerned with converting, and often hold beliefs in sharp opposition to my own. And yet, I am glad that Quakerism is growing. It’s a tough mix. Not everything Kenyan Friends espouse to belief is comfortable to me, but there are commonalities between all Friends worldwide.

  • Anna Clark

    The significance of this new constitution is HUGE, a significant step forward, and I’m so cheered by how the constitution passed by a significant margin, and that so much of the global community is backing this (again, like you said, despite the fear-mongering that reveals some unfortunately ordered priorities). It’s important to note, though, that Constitution does include a stipulation that makes abortion illegal in all cases except to save the life of the mothers. This is an improvement — it’s the first time ANY abortion will be legal in Kenya. This is why so many anti-abortion people wanted to throw away the whole constitution. So, good news for reproductive rights. But of course, there is work yet to be done.

    This is a big deal all around though — as a challenge to political corruption and consolidate power, for land reform, etc. I am so happy for Kenya.

  • Charlotte

    I’ve only read a little about this – it seems very positive and exciting, and from the few stories that didn’t focus on the abortion issue, it seemed like a huge step just to have elections that weren’t violent and corrupt – instead they seems orderly and calm.
    However, on the whole abortion issue, what really frustrates me is that the whole objection to it seems to come from foreigners, which is frustrating because I didn’t seem the same life-lovers protesting against the losses of human life and dignity arising out of violence and riots of the 2007 (?) Kenyan election…