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WOMEN IN KENYA: WHAT DO THEY KNOW OF THE NEW CONSTITUTION?

Women and Business Report

A World Bank report published last week ranks Kenya globally as a top reformer, with regards to the government’s efforts to narrow the gender parity between men and women in the past two years. According to the report titled World Bank-International Finance Corporation Women, Business and Law 2012, out of 35 countries in the region Kenya showed the highest number of changes in accessing institutions, using property and going to court (see, The Standard on Wednesday, October 12, 2011, Daily Nation October 12, 2011).

The report states that this year Kenya’s economy registered the highest number of reforms in the areas relating to Women, Business and the Law and further notes that many of the documented changes came about through the new Constitution. The report also observes that customary law, which in most cases discriminates against woman, is void if it’s inconsistent with the constitution.

Being a patriarchal society, Kenya has for a longtime been characterized by laws such as the Succession Act Cap 160 that discriminate against women when it comes to inheritance of property. Discriminatory customs and practices have in the past barred women from inheriting property and even dispossessed them of their personal assets after their husbands’ demise. Women were also expected to confirm that their husbands have no objection to their taking up positions (including scholarships) abroad, whereas a man was free to do the same without seeking the consent of his wife.

These reforms therefore mark a new dawn for the Kenyan woman.

PROVISIONS FOR WOMEN IN THE NEW KENYAN CONSTITUTION

The New Kenyan Constitution ensures:

  • Women will be able to pass on citizenship to their children regardless of whether or not they are married to Kenyans (Article 14 (1));
  • Parties to a marriage will be entitled to equal rights at the time of marriage, during the marriage and at its dissolution (Article 45 (3));
  • Parental responsibility shall be shared between parents regardless of marital status (Article 53 (1) (e));
  • Gender discrimination in relation to land and property and gives everyone, including women, the right to inheritance and unbiased access to land (Article 60 (1) (f)) is eliminated;
  • The enactment of legislation for the protection of matrimonial property with special interest on the matrimonial home during and upon the termination of the marriage (Article 68 (c) (iii));
  • A one third requirement for either gender in elective bodies giving women of Kenya at least 1/3 minimum representation in elective public bodies (Article 81 (b));
  • Gender equality is maintained in political parties providing a basic requirement for political parties to respect and promote gender equality (Article 91 (f));
  • Parliament shall formulate law to promote the representation of women, persons of disabilities, ethnic and other minorities and marginalized communities in Parliament (Article 100);
  • That women and men will have the right to equal treatment and opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres without discrimination (Article 27 (3));

    ‘Kenyan women – what they don’t know won’t help them’

  • The right to health including reproductive health to all (Article 43 (1) (a));

And,

  • Adequate and equal opportunities for appointment, training and advancement for women and men at all levels within the Public Service Commission (Article 232 (i)).

These are fine words, says the Forum. However, while this is indeed a milestone for Kenyan woman, one thing that is evident is that large swathes of Kenyan

women, especially in the rural areas, are yet to benefit from adequate information on what they stand to gain under a new constitutional dispensation. An effective communications campaign to inform them should be mounted by the Government to rectify this situation.

The saying goes, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you”. It is also the case that what you don’t know can’t help you either.

President Kenyatta declared winner.

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