Calls for amendment of laws to achieve gender equality

Davis & Shirtliff women staff mark International Women’s Day 2023 at the Group’s headquarters in Nairobi. [File, Standard]

Nine laws require repeal in whole or in part while 17 others need amendment to help achieve gender equality, according to a report released yesterday.

The report titled Gender Equality in Law: Mapping Discriminatory Laws against Women and Girls in Kenya also proposed new laws in seven thematic areas.

The report is a joint initiative by UN Women, the Kenya Law Reform Commission and the International Development Law Organisation.

President’s Women Rights Advisor Harriet Chiggai presided over the launch at the Norfolk Hotel yesterday.

Others in attendance were Law Society of Kenya President Faith Mony, former Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Barasa, Fida chairperson Christine Kungu and Kenya Law Reform Commission chairperson Christine Agimba.

Chiggai posed the question: Why is the women space so volatile?

“A strong woman empowers others through mentorship, carries others with them and makes others better.”

She said she had achieved a lot through the mentorship of Barasa and that she was doing the same in her current role as an advisor to the president.

The law on Marriage and Family which allows polygamy is among those singled out in the report for amendment. There is a proposal to amend the Marriage Act 2014 to expressly discourage polygamous unions.

There is also a proposal to amend the Matrimonial Property Act to give effect to the concept of spousal equality by adopting a property distribution model that recognizes the equality of spousal contribution in property acquisition and division.

Another proposal under land and property is to amend the Land Registration Act, 2012 to reinstate the requirement of spousal consent for any transaction relating to marital property.

Other areas cited for amendment are on Sexual and Gender-based roles, Sexual and reproductive health, Succession, political participation, labour and employment, and nationality.

“Customary law has been the major cause of discrimination against women and should be looked into. Widows lose their rights when the remarry. On inheritance by daughters, there is the Rono vs Rono case where the women were told they would inherit husbands’ property but the women are single to date,” said Barasa now a lecturer at the University of Nairobi.

Kenya’s Constitution has progressive provisions that seek to promote gender equity and equality.

However, despite 14 years of its implementation, there are still pieces of legislation which are not aligned with its spirit and letter.

Also, despite a robust legal framework, discriminatory laws persist, limiting women and girls'

rights and hindering gender equality.

The aim of the report was to identify and recommend reforms for discriminatory laws against women and girls.

It also aims to highlight the challenges that undermine the effective implementation of the existing laws in Kenya.