Shackling of mentally ill people is unacceptable and must be stopped

There is, however, dire need to ensure that not only are victims of this type of torture given reparations, but that no other Kenyan is exposed to the atrocities faced by persons with mental health conditions as has been documented in this institution.

The discussions on detention of mental health patients must also happen within the broad context of communities that are supportive and thriving for people who experience mental distress in many of its forms.

Indeed, as notes the HRW report, while countries are increasingly starting to pay attention to the issue of mental health, the practice of shackling remains largely invisible.

It notes that there are currently no coordinated international or regional efforts to eradicate shackling.

Whereas some governments have put in place measures to tackle the practice of shackling people with mental health problems, their laws and policies are not always effectively implemented, and on-the-ground monitoring remains weak overall. Of the 60 countries where HRW found evidence of shackling, including in Kenya, only a handful have laws, policies or strategies in place that explicitly ban or aim to end shackling of people with mental health conditions.

This therefore is a call to action, more so to the State, to ensure that this practice not only ends, but to contextualise the conditions under which it will end. Prosecution of culprits is a good start, but importantly, social solutions must be offered.

This may range from social protection support to families of persons with mental health conditions to communities that are free of stigma, discrimination and violence towards people with real or perceived mental health conditions.

Indeed, and urgently so, the Kenyan government must ban shackling, adopt measures to reduce stigma against people with psychosocial disabilities and mental health conditions, and develop adequate, voluntary, and community-based mental health services.