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Friday 5 March 2010

Dossier of Claims: Kenya

RATIFY! Although Kenya ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1984, it has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW or the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).

RESPECT! The Coalition of the Campaign remains particularly concerned about the following continued violations of women’s rights: the persistence of discrimina- tory laws and traditional harmful practices, in particular in the area of the family; violence; obstacles to access to education; under-representation in political life; and obstacles to access to property and health services. The Coalition of the Campaign is also concerned about delays in adoption of legislation that eliminates discrimina- tion and protects women’s human rights. Bills pending before parliament include: the Family Protection Bill 2007, the Marriage Bill 2008, the Domestic Violence Bill 1999, the Matrimonial Property Bill 2008, the Equal Opportunities Bill 2008 and the Affirmative Action Bill 2000.


The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the recent adoption of several laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including:

  • The adoption of the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) in 2006 (enacted in 2008). This Act Harmonises sexual violence legislation into a single law, provides a comprehensive definition of rape, introduces minimum sentences, criminalises sexual harassment and expands sexual offenses to include: gang rape, deliberate infection with sexually transmitted diseases, trafficking for sexual exploitation and child pornography.
  • The adoption of two Regulations in 2008 to guide judicial officials in the implementation of the Sexual Offenses Act: the Sexual Offences Regulations and the Sexual Offences Dangerous Offenders DNA Data Bank Regulations.
  • The introduction, in 2008, of government subsidies to secondary schools to cover tuition and related costs. As a result, the number of students in secondary education, in particular female students, has increased.


In Law

Kenya has a unified legal system based on the common law system. However, according to the Constitution, family law continues to be governed by customary Christian, Islamic and Hindu laws, alongside statutory law. Despite ongoing discussions on the harmonisation of such laws, discriminatory provisions remain widespread within each source of law with regard to marriage, divorce and custody of children. Qadis’ courts apply personal status law for the Muslim population.

Discriminatory provisions of the common law include:

Constitution: While article 70 provides for equality between men and women, article 82(4) exempts certain laws from the prohibition against discrimination in the areas of adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, devolution of property on death and other matters of personal law, as well as tribal and customary laws. Furthermore articles 89 and 91 prohibit women passing their nationality to their husbands and restrict their rights to transfer nationality to their children.

Family law: According to the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance, children are defined as males who have not attained the age of 16 and females who have not attained the age of 13 (art. 2). Wives can be prosecuted for adultery but husbands cannot be (art. 11). freedom of movement: Under the Domicile Act women must have their husbands’ or fathers’ consent to obtain passports (Ch. 37).

Property: The Law of Succession Act terminates the inheritance rights of widows if they remarry. A widow cannot be the sole administrator of her husband’s estate unless she has her children’s consent (art. 35).

Discriminatory customary and religious laws include:

Marriage: Whilst statutory law fixes the minimum age for marriage at 18 (Children’s Act, 2001), customary and religious laws authorise early marriages. Customary and Muslim laws authorise polygamy.

Divorce: Muslim laws provide for men to repudiate their wives (unilateral termination of marriage by pronouncing the intention to divorce three times). Under Muslim laws women cannot divorce their husbands. custody: Under customary law, the father has custody of the children.

In Practice

Discrimination in the family

In addition to the application of discriminatory statutory, customary and religious laws, discriminatory traditional practices include the payment of a bride price, and wife inheritance, or levirate, wherein a widow is “inherited” by a male relative of her deceased husband.


Domestic violence remains widespread and perpetrators continue to benefit from impunity. There is no specific legislation criminalising domestic violence. Marital rape is not criminalised. A Domestic Violence Bill, which includes a provision sanctioning marital rape, has been pending since 1999. Law enforcement officials are generally reluctant to investigate domestic violence reports as they are considered “domestic issues.” Rape is extremely prevalent. Although the Penal Code, section 139, criminalises rape and provides for a sentence of up to life imprisonment, the rate of reporting and prosecution remains low due to victims’ fear of retribution, police reluctance to intervene, poor training of prosecutors, and unavailability of medical personnel.

The traditional practice of ritual “cleansing” of widows, which involves forcing them to have sex with a social outcast, usually without protection, persists in some communities. Women living in the Internally Displaced Persons camps across Kenya are also particularly vulnerable to rape and other crimes of sexual violence.

Despite legal prohibition (Children’s Act, 2001), female genital mutilation (FGM) remains widely practiced, with prevalence varying considerably depending on ethnic group. In addition, the legal prohibition does not apply to women over the age of 18. In 2009, it was estimated that 40% of women have undergone FGM in Kenya.

Obstacles to access to education

Despite the provision of free and compulsory primary and secondary education, girls’ access to education remains limited, in part due to traditional attitudes, as well as high dropout rates due to pregnancy and early and forced marriage (estimated 80,000 annually). The Education Act provides for the right of pregnant girls to continue education until and after giving birth, but pregnant girls continue to be expelled from schools.

Under-representation in political life

Kenyan women continue to remain underrepresented in political and public life. In 2009, women composed 9.8% of elected members in Parliament, 5.8% of ministers in Government, and 27% of ambassadors and high commissioners in the diplomatic service. There are no women judges in the Court of Appeal. Despite lobbying efforts by women’s rights organizations, the Affirmative Action Bill 2000, which imposes a 30% quota for all government appointments remains pending.

Obstacles to access to property

Although the Law of Succession Act provides for the surviving spouse to inherit the entire marital estate, many widows are deprived of inheritance (art. 35). The husband’s family often evicts the widow from her home and confiscates other marital property. The Matrimonial Property Bill 2008, aims at removing these inequalities, but remains pending. Women constitute 75% of the agricultural workforce, however they only hold 6% of all land titles.

Obstacles to access to health

The maternal mortality rate (560 per 100,000 births) remains high, due to lack of skilled birth attendants, malaria, HIV/AIDS, low rates of contraceptive usage, and unsafe abortions. Women lack access to quality sexual and reproductive health services, family planning services, contraception and sexual education.


  • Reform or repeal all discriminatory statutory laws in conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol, including discriminatory provisions within the Constitution, Matrimonial Causes Ordinance, Domicile Act and the Law of Succession Act.
  • Harmonise statutory, customary, and religious laws in conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo protocol and ensure that where conflicts arise the statutory provisions prevail.
  • Strengthen measures to eliminate discrimination within the family, including by urgently adopting the Family Protection Bill (2007) and the Marriage Bill (2008).
  • Strengthen laws and policies to protect women from violence and support victims, including by adopting the Domestic Violence Bill; extending the prohibition of FGM to adult women; removing obstacles to victims’ access to justice; ensuring effective prosecution and punishment of offenders; implementing training for all law enforcement personnel and health workers; increasing financial resources allocated to domestic violence programs and services; implementing public awareness campaigns targeting women and men, traditional and community leaders and adopting a zero tolerance policy on all forms of violence against women.
  • Ensure women’s access to education including by implementing the provision of the Education Act concerning the right of pregnant girls to continue education; and addressing socio-economic and cultural factors that impede access to education.
  • Ensure women’s representation in decision-making positions, including by adopting the Affirmative Action Bill 2000.
  • Ensure women’s access to property, including through the adoption of the Matrimonial Property Bill 2008 and through measures facilitating women’s access to land.
  • Ensure women’s access to health, and strengthen efforts to reduce the incidence of maternal mortality, by increasing knowledge of and access to affordable contraceptive methods and reproductive health services, improving sex education programmes and establishing family planning services.
  • Ratify the optional protocol to CEDAW and the Maputo protocol.


  • Focal Point: KHRC
  • CEDAW Committee Recommendations, July 2007
  • OMCT, Alternative Report to the UN Committee against Torture, June 2009
  • Wikigender,


  • Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)

KHRC is an independent human rights NGO, established in 1992 with the vision of entrenching human rights and democratic values in Kenya. The Mission of KHRC is to promote, protect and enhance the realisation of all human rights for all individuals and groups. One of the main objectives within KHRC’s Strategic Plan for 2008-2012, is mainstreaming equality, non discrimination, and respect for



Monday 9 March 2009

Read the Botswana Centre for Human Rights' press statement on the campaign!


“Sharing the Caring for the Future”

DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, Women Against Rape, Kagisano Women’s Shelter Project and the Botswana Council of Women join the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day on 8 March 2009. These three organisations are partnering in the “Africa for Women’s Rights: Ratify and Respect” year-long Campaign which will begin on International Women’s Day. Civil society organisations from Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Caper Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo Brazzaville, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Morocco, Nigeria, Niger, Central African Republic, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe are also participating in the campaign. The campaign will focus on the issues of discrimination and violence against women, weak adherence to international and regional women’s human rights protection instruments and the failure of States to make necessary legal and political reforms to end violations of women’s rights.

The theme for this year’s celebration in Botswana is “Sharing the Caring for the Future”. Shared rights and shared responsibilities of adults are necessary for nurturing of responsible adults of future Botswana.

International Women’s day has been observed since the early 1900s. It is an opportunity for the world to reflect on the milestones or achievements which have been made by governments, development agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), communities and individuals in order to attain equality for women.

In this regard, the undersigned organisations acknowledge the fact that the Government of Botswana has committed itself to various international and regional instruments aimed at ensuring that women’s rights are promoted and respected. In 1996 Botswana ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

At a regional level, in 1997, Botswana committed itself to the principles of the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development and in 1998 committed itself to the Addendum on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women and Children.

At the national level, the undersigned organisations are aware of efforts which have been made by the Botswana Government to elevate the Women’s Affairs Division to the Department of Women’s Affairs. This has resulted in the Department facilitating the promotion of gender-sensitive national policies as well as coordinating capacity development training on various aspects of gender and development.

Whilst acknowledging that a number of strides have been made by the Government to advance the rights of women, the undersigned organisations call upon the Government to ensure that the international and regional instruments relating to women, to which Botswana is a party, are implemented through the strengthening of institutional capacities in both government and civil society.

We further call on the Government to show its commitment to women’s rights through the ratification of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW as well as the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. The Optional Protocol to CEDAW allows individual women to seek redress for violations. The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa recognises the crucial role of women in the preservation of African values based on the principles of equality, freedom, dignity, justice and democracy.

The undersigned urge the Government to encourage the private sector to adopt and implement gender sensitive policies within the workplace. Political parties should also seriously commit themselves to increasing the level of representation of women in decision making and in local politics. By developing strategies to promote the improvement of women’s economic, political and social status, women’s participation in development will be further enhanced. We believe that this step will assist the country to attain the goal of “sharing the caring for the future” in keeping with the national vision of a compassionate, just and caring nation by 2016.

DITSHWANELO –THE Botswana Centre for Human Rights Women Against Rape Kagisano Women’s Shelter Project The Botswana Council of Women

8 March 2009 Gaborone

For more information, please contact DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights at Tel: 267 390 6998 Fax: 267 3907778, Website:,

Friday 6 March 2009

The Campaign Focal Points take action on 8 March!

version fr

Preparations are well underway for 8 March... !

In Botswana, Congo Brazzaville, Mauritania, Senegal and Zimbabwe, the Campaign Focal Points (The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, OCDH, Association mauritanienne des droits de l'Homme, Organisation nationale des droits de l'homme, RADDHO, SWAA Senegal,WILDAF Senegal, WLSA Zimbabwe and Zimrights) will organise actions to mobilise the media (press statements and conferences)

In Burkina Faso, a march in favour of the political participation of women through a quota system is planned for 12 March: "March for Gender". The Focal Points of the Campaign (Mouvement Burkinabe des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples - MBDHP, WILDAF Burkina Faso and Réseau de Communication d’information et de formation des femmes dans les ONG) are advocating for the adoption of a bill providing for 30% of seats in the General Assembly to be attributed to women. MBDHP will also organise a conference on women's rights in collaboration with unions and other organisations.

In Burundi, the Campaign Focal Points (Ligue Burundaise des Droits de l'Homme, Centre de paix pour Femmes and Dushirehamwe) will participate in a march "Men and Women: United for the Elimination of Violence Against Women" in order to reinforce solidarity between men and women in the struggle to end violence against women, encourage denunciation of such violence and improve assistance and support provided by the state to women victims of sexual violence - health, legal and community services - and advocate for the establishment of appropriate structures at all levels of the legal process: police, prosecutors and courts. The Campaign Declaration will also be sent to the media in order to collect a maximum number of signatures.

In DRC, the Campaign Focal Points (ASADHO, Ligue des Electeurs and Groupe Lotus) will organise a series of awareness raising actions and will participate in a march for women's rights on 8 March.

In Liberia, the Campaign Focal Points (Liberia Watch for Human Rights and Association of Female Lawyers) will participate in an International Colloquim taking place from 7-10 March, at which they will distribute the Campaign Declaration and tools.

In Mali, the Campaign Focal Points (WiLDAF Mali, Association Malienne des Droits de l'Homme), will use the occasion of a march organised by the Ministry for women to collect signatures to the Campaign Declaration from individual, organisations and officials. They will prepare a banner with the message and logo of the Campaign and will take photos of the event to be included on the blog.

In Niger, the Campaign Focal Points (Association Nigérienne des Droits de l'Homme, Coordination des ONG et Associations Féminines Nigériennes, ONG Dimol) will organise a formal meeting with the Ministry on the Promotion of Women in order to integrate the launch of the Campaign into the official programme of the Ministry. They will also organise a round table on women's rights. On 8 March, during cultural events organised by the Ministry on the Promotion of Women and its partners, the Focal Points will distribute the Campaign Declaration and tools.

In Sénégal, the Campaign Focal Points (Organisation nationale des droits de l'homme, RADDHO, SWAA Senegal,WILDAF Senegal) will organise a series of conferences in schools on the themes of the campaign.

In Tanzania, on 8 March, radio and televsion programmes created by the Campaign Focal Point (the Legal and Human Rights Centre - LHRC) will be diffused. LHRC will also participate in a meeting on the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa and will take part in a charity walk in Dar es Salaam.

In Togo, the Campaign Focal Points (the Ligue togolaise des droits de l'homme and Wildaf-Togo) have organised a caravan which will through the streets of Lomé, in order to raise public awareness on the message of the Campaign.

Resumes and photos of these events will be available soon.

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