By John Ikani
A Kenyan High Court has handed fathers a major win in custody cases, granting them an equal right to take care of minors despite their age.
Under the Kenyan law, mothers are often granted physical custody of young children because they are viewed as the natural care givers. Men are only offered it under exceptional circumstances.
However, critics have argued the role of mothers has evolved to also include careers.
In a decision that has been hailed as unprecedented by legal experts, the High Court in Nakuru issued a landmark ruling allowing men to have custody of children below nine years of age.
It is the first time courts in Kenya invoked the best interest of child principle – citing article 53 of the constitution, which gives equality in parenting.
The judgement was delivered by Justice Joel Ngugi, who upheld the decision of a lower court granting custody to the father in the case.
The couple had been fighting over the custody of their children for some time.
The court directed the mother to handover the children, aged eight and 13, to their father, adding that she will be given access to them.
Justice Ngugi went on to note that there is no reason to restrict legal custody to one parent especially in situations where there was no evidence that either parents are unfit or suitable to take up the role.