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Type of submission: Oral
Conference track: Practice
Topics: Human Rights and Harm Reduction
Presenting author: Teddy Odunga
In Kenya, people who use drugs are marginalised, stigmatised and criminalised - negatively impacting upon individuals’ ability to access essential health care services or claim their rights. In such environments, the full Constitutional guarantee of the right to the highest attainable standard of health for people who use drugs is impossible. KELIN lawyers believe empowered communities and better access to justice (via a lawyer or paralegal) are essential components of the harm reduction response in Kenya.
Drug use in Kenya is concentrated in Nairobi, and along the coast. People who use drugs in these areas face legal issues including Violence, discrimination and arbitrary arrests. Lawyers tend to be inaccessible to people who use drugs – by virtue of cost, geography and stigma; and community paralegal capacity is nascent. Due to the fear of violence and stigma, persons who use drugs do not come out to report cases of human rights violations, seek legal assistance, and cannot freely access harm reduction services.
In order to strengthen access to justice and access to harm reduction services for drug users – with the broader objective of improving health outcomes and upholding their rights; KELIN and Nairobi Outreach Services Trust collaborate to support persons who use drugs. People who face human rights violations can report violations to the legal team, receive legal assistance and pro-bono representation in court where necessary. Monthly legal aid clinics are provided to people who use drugs in safe spaces, where they will be comfortable to open up and report cases of violations, including at the NOSET premises and drug dens.
Establishing a referral mechanism between NOSET and KELIN for the purposes of providing legal services and advice to persons who use drugs strengthens access to justice for people who use drugs in Nairobi.