Government slapped with Sh30 million over transgender lady Audrey

Audrey Mbugua during an interview in Nairobi in 2014. [File, Standard]
The High Court has awarded about Sh30 million costs to five transgender women for denying them a name change.

The costs were slapped against the Principal Registrar of Persons following a case by Audrey Mbugua and four others. An order was also granted to effect their desired name changes.

The applicants – Audrey Mbugua Ithibu formerly Andrew Mbugua Ithibu, Maurine Muya formerly Maurice Muia, Alesandra Awino Ogeto, Maria Marius Mbugua and Dalziel Leone Wafula – had moved to court to compel the Principal Registrar of Persons to effect the change of particulars of their ‘new’ names on their national identification cards.

The five were seeking an order against the Principal Registrar of Persons as directed by court to shoulder the cost of the litigation which was concluded 2015.

Audrey and four other transgender women in Kenya won two landmark cases in which the High Court reaffirmed the “third gender” as a constitutional issue.

They wanted the Government to bear the costs of the litigation which averagely amounts to Sh30 million.

But Attorney General Githu Muigai opposed the bill of costs, arguing the High Court only ordered that the respondent “pays half of the cost of the proceedings”.

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“The current cost as filed is exorbitant and exaggerated and humbly ask the taxing master to examine it and have the same taxed off,” said Prof Muigai.

But the applicants' lawyer Colbert Ojiambo differed with the AG, saying the amount was appropriate.

“The issues raised were peculiar and novel to require detailed attention and skills. We urge the court to take judicial notice of the fact that this case is among the first cases touching on gender identity disorder in our courts,” said Ojiambo.

He said the costs in relation to filing fees and the court receipts were available and termed the figure as appropriate.

Justice George Odunga, in his ruling last week, found the registrar wanting in his statutory duty. “Inaction to carry out a statutory mandate is contrary to the Constitution and in no way amounts to fair administrative action,” said Justice Odunga.

He compelled the registrar to change the names and overruled the registrar, now represented by AG, with a rider that deed poll fee should not have been received and the alteration of names denied, as the applicants had pursued the only legal avenue in effecting their name change.

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transgenderPrincipal Registrar of PersonsAudrey MbuguaAndrew MbuguaMaurice MuiaAlesandra AwinoMaria MariusDalziel Leone