MPs reject changes to sex offences law

Members of Parliament reject changes to sex offences law. (Photo: Courtesy)

Legislators have rejected a bill that contained radical proposals to tame sexual harassment of girls and women.

Male legislators Wednesday ganged up to shoot down the controversial Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2016, that among other issues, sought to criminalise unwanted bodily contact in crowded public places.

The proposal to outlaw unwanted body contact generated heat during the debate of the bill sponsored Busia Woman Rep Florence Mutua and was ultimately thrown out.

Male MPs argued that there was need to fine-tune the legislation.

The bill sought to redefine what amounts to 'indecent acts', spelling out that the unwanted contact between body parts with genitals of a person of the opposite sex, falls in the category.

"Indecent act includes an unlawful intentional act that causes any contact between any part of the body of a person with genital organs, breasts or buttocks or another, but does not cause the act of penetration," read the bill in part.

The bill further expanded the scope of what amounts to 'indecent acts' to include exposure of one's breast, genital organs, buttocks, and showing of pornographic material to another person unwillingly.

When the bill came for debate last week, MPs Paul Otuoma (Funyula), Tim Wanyonyi (Westlands), Dawood Rahim( North Imenti), Stephen Mule (Matungulu) and Murungi Kathuri( South Imenti) insisted that that caution should be exercised in trying to define what amounts to indecent acts.

"Indecency, according to the bill, also involves dressing that exposes some body parts. We should be careful because some communities in this country have their dressing styles. The kind of clothing maybe indecent to the rest of Kenyans, but to them it is actually not, we should not come up with a generalised law," argued Dr Otuoma.

"Boda bodas are a popular means of transport in the country. We all know how the passengers are ferried. Shall we charge the operators for sexual offences because of how they sit with their clients? The law should be rectified," observed Mr Rahim.