Ugly Spaces of Neglect & Discrimination: A Critical look into the Right to Adequate Housing for Persons Living with Disabilities in Kenya

Access to Justice / ArticlesFebruary 27, 20200 CommentsKituo Cha Sheria

Ugly Spaces of Neglect & Discrimination: A Critical look into the Right to Adequate Housing for Persons Living with Disabilities in Kenya


As I write this paper, I find myself at a cross roads; I would like to affirm the law- keep in the straight and narrow of legal writing. However, I am also reminded that this is but a story of a province of people who face discrimination and neglect at every turn. I know we can all imagine how hard it is to find a ‘suitable’ house in the city of Nairobi. Let’s give it another thought, imagine a wheelchair user, one who cannot navigate the tiny corridors or take up the stairs in houses that expand vertically every day. I imagine you get the picture we’re painting. I seek therefore to look at adequate housing through the lenses of persons with disabilities in Kenya. The areas of concern include:

  • Meaning of   Adequate Housing
  • Supporting Instruments and Legislations on Adequate Housing
  • Challenges to Adequate Housing for PWDs in Kenya-
  • Possible solutions

Meaning of Adequate Housing

The right to adequate housing has been interpreted in the expansive manner. The United Nations Committee on Social and Economic contends that housing is more than a shelter or owning a house. This right encompasses living in a place with dignity, security and peace. It  also entails the policies that Governments eradicate homelessness. It further entails; the right to adequate housing entails the following: legal security of tenure, availability of services and infrastructure, affordability and habitability and protection of the vulnerable such as the elderly and persons with disabilities. Kenya and the developing world has adopted a progressive realization approach to the right to housing. This persuasion has aided in getting very little done towards eradication of slums and informal settlements.

Supporting Instruments and the laws on Adequate Housing

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 is the first instruments that gives dominance to the right to adequate housing. The word standard of living is used to denote a certain desired level of doing things. The instrument goes down to specifically touch on housing and security of tenure.  The International Convention on Social Economic and Cultural Rights also recognizes the right to adequate housing in Article 11. This is a replica article adopted by member States who had allegiance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights touches on a number of rights that support the concept of adequate housing. These include: the right to life, freedom from torture cruel and inhuman treatment and privacy to home and family. Specific instruments touching on different vulnerable groups also touch on the right to adequate housing. The Convention on the right of a child touches on housing for children while Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women 1979 highlights the need for woman to have better housing. There are other international instruments such as the one dealing with protection of indigenous people as well as the instrument that is established to eradicate all forms of discrimination also touches on the right to adequate housing. The other instruments are the regional instruments that also highlight on the right to adequate housing. The African Charter is most relevant in this instance.

Domestically, the Constitution of Kenya 2010 also advocates for adequate housing.  Through Article 43, Kenya speaks to the universality of human rights. The Government has an obligation to progressive move towards adequate housing.

Challenges to Adequate Housing for PWDs in Kenya    

Statistically, 80% of the of persons living with disabilities live in the developing world. There are a number of challenges that they face. Firstly, there is the lack access. Developers of houses in the developing world ignore elements of access for persons with disabilities. It is important that houses should be structured in a way that Persons with disabilities can access the infrastructure. Secondly, stigma and discrimination that goes on in developing countries with regards to persons with disabilities. As much as they are also part of the society, persons living with disability are never consulted with regards to house designs and architecture.

Thirdly, persons living with disability face the challenge of owning their own home. This may be also linked with the idea of stigmatization and discrimination. Many of these people have very little income and are not able to afford a home. Persons with mental and intellectual disabilities are not thought of to have capacity to hold on to security of tenure hence vulnerable to forceful evictions.

Possible solution

It is important for Kenya to implement the law. Kenya has a Constitution 2010 that demands for adequate housing in Article 43. It also binds Kenya to international law through article 2(4) and 2(5).

I offer a few solutions that the Government may consider: –

  • Legislative interventions, the laws on housing and developments should be made as inclusive as possible
  • The Government working with the Disability Council need to work progressive towards making living places accessible, disability friendly
  • Awareness, empowerment for PWDs in their discourse so that the right to housing should be dealt with as a conscious issue
  •  Empowerment of PWDs financially will also aid them in affording houses and hence the dream towards adequate housing


Ouma Kizito Ajuong’

Advocate of the High Court of Kenya

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