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Kenya
15.01.03
Urgent Interventions

OMCT expresses concern at violence against women in Kenya at 28th Session of CEDAW

Geneva, 15 January 2003

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women will today begin its examination of the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in Kenya. In its alternative country report entitled "Violence against Women in Kenya", which has been submitted to the Committee, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) expresses its grave concern at reports of torture of women and widespread violence against women in the private and community spheres.

Although the Kenyan Constitution was recently amended to guarantee equality between the sexes (1997), in reality discrimination against women persists in both the private and public spheres. Attempts to draft legislation ensuring equality for women have been thwarted, leaving women in Kenya with few laws specifically protecting their rights. Furthermore, even where women do have de jure protection, customary practices often conflict with these laws, making it difficult for women to realize these protections.

OMCT is deeply concerned by reports that indicate that domestic violence is widespread in Kenya, although seldom reported. Cultural views concerning marriage take a permissive stance towards men “disciplining” their wives, and thus perpetuate the problem of domestic violence. Furthermore, marital rape is not a crime in Kenya, revealing the cultural presumption that sexual intercourse is an obligatory part of marriage. OMCT recommends that the Kenyan government create legislation for the prevention and punishment of domestic violence, including marital rape.

OMCT is also troubled by the high incidence of FGM in Kenya. Although FGM is formally outlawed in the nation for children under the age of 18, it continues to be carried out clandestinely causing serious physical and psychological harm to the women on whom the procedure is performed. OMCT strongly urges the Kenyan government to embark on a public awareness campaign to eradicate the practice of FGM.

OMCT is equally concerned about the high incidence of rape in Kenya. This crime is widespread throughout the country and there is no proper procedure in place for investigating rape. The police are not properly trained to handle rape cases in a gender sensitive way, creating an atmosphere where women are reluctant to report rapes. Furthermore, there is no minimum sentence for the crime of rape and if a rape case makes it to court, the judge often hands down a light sentence, further discouraging women from reporting the crime. OMCT recommends that the government train its law enforcement and judicial officers handle rape cases (and other crimes that specifically involve women) in a sensitive and effective way. Moreover, OMCT advises the government to establish a minimum sentence for the crime of rape, limiting judicial discretion.

Furthermore, OMCT is disturbed by reports of violence against women at the hands of State agents. Reports claim that sexual abuse of women by police officers is a pervasive problem in Kenya. OMCT maintains the position that police officers who engage in these crimes must be held accountable.

Overall, OMCT’s report concludes that while Kenya has a duty under international law to act with due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish all forms of violence against women, irrespective of whether this violence is committed by public or private individuals, this obligation has not been adequately implemented at the national level.


For copies of the alternative report on violence against women in Kenya or for further information on OMCT’s programme on Violence against Women please contact Lucinda O’Hanlon on + 41 22 809 4939 or loh@omct.org.
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