2 November 2017
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the eighth periodic report of Kenya on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Introducing the report, Sicily Kariuki, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs of Kenya, said that although faced with various challenges, Kenya’s endeavour to realize the right to equal opportunities in political, social, economic and cultural spheres for women, men, boys and girls remained on course. Kenya continued to put in place measures to eradicate all forms of discrimination against women, including through the establishment of the National Gender and Equality Commission Act, the prohibition of female genital mutilation in 2011, and the adoption in 2015 of the Protection from Domestic Violence Act. In the last elections held in August 2017, three women had been elected as Governors, 23 as members of parliament and five as Senators. Another historic achievement was the establishment of a fully-fledged and well-resourced Department of Gender Affairs, which strengthened the national gender machinery. Earlier this year, a four-year initiative had been launched in cooperation with United Nations agencies to accelerate efforts to prevent gender-based violence, strengthen the protection of survivors of gender-based violence, and ensure the expeditious prosecution of perpetrators.
During the discussion, Committee Experts deplored the shrinking space for civil society due to stark limitations on foreign funding and various administrative limitations imposed on civil society organizations, and expressed concern about threats to life, security and concrete work of women human rights defenders. Experts also inquired about the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention, unequal treatment of women in Islamic marriages in terms of their marriage and family rights, temporary special measures, negative stereotypes and traditions, female genital mutilation and the practice of “beading”, trafficking in persons, and sexual exploitation of children. Other issues of concern included the political representation of women, birth registration, statelessness and nationality, education for women and girls, discrepancy in university education among girls and boys, sexual harassment at the workplace, maternity leave, restrictive abortion laws, access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, the maternal mortality rate, the protection of domestic workers, credit distribution to women, the situation of rural women and indigenous women, and matrimonial property and inheritance.
In concluding remarks, Mwanamaka Amani Mabruki, Principal Secretary of the State Department of Gender Affairs of Kenya, reiterated the commitment of the Government of Kenya to uphold the country’s international obligations. The Government would not lose sight of the fact that gender equality and women’s empowerment lay in continued and constructive dialogue with the Committee.
Dalia Leinarte, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for their responses and explanations, which had provided further insight into the situation of women and girls in Kenya. She encouraged the delegation to address the various concerns voiced by Committee Experts for the benefit of all women and girls in the country.
The delegation of Kenya participated in the dialogue via video conference, and it included representatives of the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, the State Department of Gender Affairs, the Council of Governors, the University of Nairobi, the Kenyatta National Hospital, the Women Enterprise Fund, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the State Department for Social Protection, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
The delegation of Kenya also included representatives of the Permanent Mission of Kenya to the United Nations Office at Geneva, who were present in the room during the dialogue.
The Committee will reconvene in public on Friday, 3 November at 10 a.m. to consider the combined second and third periodic reports of Oman (CEDAW/C/OMN/2-3).
The Committee is considering the eighth periodic report of Kenya (CEDAW/C/KEN/8) via videoconference.
Presentation of the Report
SICILY KARIUKI, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs of Kenya, reiterated the full commitment of Kenya to the implementation of the Convention that it had ratified in 1984, and to the continued acceleration of gender equality and the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls at all levels. Kenya’s gender mainstreaming programmes were intended to ensure that gender issues were incorporated into the national development planning process, and that Constitutional values and principles of equality, equity, respect for human dignity, inclusiveness and non-discrimination, continued to inspire legislation, policies and programmes to meet the goal of equity.
Although faced with various challenges, Kenya’s endeavour to realize the right to equal opportunities in political, social, economic and cultural spheres for women, men, boys and girls remained on course. The country continued to put in place measures to eradicate all forms of discrimination against women, and had initiated several affirmative measures to redress any disadvantages suffered by women due to past discrimination. Over the last six years, Kenya had enacted a number of laws for gender equality and inclusion, such as the National Gender and Equality Commission Act of 2011, the Matrimonial Property Act of 2013, the Protection from Domestic Violence Act of 2015, the Land Act of 2012, and the Counter-Trafficking Act N°8 of 2010. Kenya had also prohibited female genital mutilation in 2011, amended the sexual offences act in 2006, and adopted the national human rights act in 2012 to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all; the law of succession act was currently being reviewed to align this legislation with the Constitution of Kenya.
Kenya had witnessed an unprecedented transformation in women’s political participation since the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010. In the last elections held in August 2017, women for the first time had been elected as Governors - three out of 47 posts were held by women - women were elected to hold 23 out of 210 member of parliament seats, and five out of 47 Senators were women. However, only 98 women had been elected for the 1,450 county level positions, which was not optimal. Another historic achievement was the establishment of a fully-fledged and well-resourced Department of Gender Affairs, which strengthened the national gender machinery. Critical measures had been taken to mainstream gender in national development: gender mainstreaming had been included in the performance assessment of all Government agencies to strengthen accountability for gender equality across the public service, and statistical officers, planning officers and gender officers at the national and county levels were being trained in gender statistics to enhance the collection, collation and analysis of sex disaggregated data.
Ms. Kariuki stressed the importance that Kenya accorded to the Sustainable Development Goals; Kenya had embarked on their institutionalization by directing all Government bodies and agencies to mainstream the Goals in policies, plans and budgets. A baseline survey on gender-related Sustainable Development Goals had been implemented in order to verify the progress towards achieving the Goals, and to establish the extent to which the Goals converged with the national development objectives set out in the Kenya Vision 2030, a blueprint for development implemented through five-year plans. Kenya continued to strengthen its Affirmative Action Funds to improve the economic empowerment of women, including the Women Enterprise Fund, the UWEZO (Ability Fund), the Youth Development Fund, and the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities. Earlier this year, a four-year initiative had been launched in cooperation with United Nations agencies to accelerate efforts to prevent gender-based violence, strengthen protection of survivors of gender-based violence, and ensure the expeditious prosecution of perpetrators. Kenya was developing a national policy on the elimination of child labour; it had launched the African Union Campaign on ending child marriage and was developing a strategy for the elimination of this practice.
Questions from the Experts
In the first round of questions, a Committee Expert addressed the issue of the institutional and legal framework in Kenya, and, referring to the work of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to examine violations of human rights in Kenya from 1963 to 28 February 2008, asked whether a legislative and administrative framework for the implementation of its recommendation had been established. To what extent were the Commission’s recommendations regarding women’s rights being prioritized?
The Committee deplored the shrinking space for civil society due to stark limitations for foreign funding and various administrative limitations imposed on civil society organizations, and expressed concern about threats to life, security and concrete work of women human rights defenders.
Had Kenya rescinded the 15 per cent limit on foreign funding to non-governmental organizations, including those active in the promotion of the human rights of women? Had the Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Act and the Media Council Act been reviewed to safeguard the principles of the Constitution? What was the status of the implementation of the 2013 Public Benefits Organization Act?
Were all cases of attacks on women human rights defenders investigated and prosecuted, with sanctions applied to perpetrators, and reparations provided to the victims?
What was the state of affairs concerning the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention?
The Expert commended Kenya for its 2010 Convention which contained an extensive bill of rights, and, noting that sexual orientation and gender identity were not listed in the Constitution, asked about the extent of the anti-discrimination protection for lesbian, bisexual and transwomen. Could the delegation update the Committee on the status of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and explain how it would be reconciled with the continued criminalization of homosexuality in the penal code?
The Committee was concerned about the plural legal system in Kenya and the application of the Marriage Act in the field of personal status which represented a violation of the equality principle, as it deprived women in Islamic marriages of their right to equal treatment in the fundamental field of marriage and family.
Was Kenya ready to proceed with an analysis of the laws on personal status and other laws to address possible discrimination against women? What was the possibility of appealing the Khadi court decisions to the civil courts, and what were the outcomes and concrete data on this?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the Optional Protocol was still awaiting ratification by Parliament, following the enactment of the Treaty Making and Ratification Act in 2012.
Kenya had not adopted comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation yet, which was currently with the Kenya Law Commission. It was hoped that this legislation would be in place soon. Homosexuality still remained a criminal offence, but the comprehensive legislation would be subjected to a public debate, and it was hoped that homosexuality would find a place in the new anti-discrimination law.
On the application of Islamic law, Kenya had a very unique history with Islam and the Khadi courts, which had been demonstrated in the debates that had preceded the adoption of the 2010 Constitution. It was a very emotive issue in the country. The provisions in the Constitution that exempted the application of equality principles in the Constitution were closely connected with those unique challenges. The implementation of the Islamic law was subject to the Constitution, and any action of the Islamic law which contravened the Constitution was deemed illegal.
All courts, including the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court and the family courts applied the provisions of the Convention; the application of the Convention’s principles by courts was now a matter of judicial practice, including in matters of inheritance, customary marriages, and the application of customary law. The Supreme Court in its advisory decision of 2012 had defended the progressive realization in the two-third gender rule by invoking articles of the Convention.
A delegate reiterated the commitment of Kenya to its reporting obligations to human rights treaty bodies and for the implementation of the Convention in the country. Gender equality was a process and no country in the world today had fully achieved it. It was important to stress that Kenya had put in place more progressive gender equality measures than a number of developed countries.
The jurisdiction of the Khadi courts was confined to matters of the Muslim personal laws, including in marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody. A case could be only brought to the Khadi court by persons of Muslim faith who had recognized and submitted to the jurisdiction of the Khadi court. A judge in the Khadi court had to be a person of Muslim faith and knowledgeable in Muslim law. At the moment, no woman served as a Khadi court judge. On this issue, there was a need to engage public conversation and discussion. There were cases in which the High Court had overturned the decisions of the Khadi court, when those had been found to be contrary to the Constitution.
Polygamy was a very entrenched practice in Islam and in customary traditions in Kenya; it was practiced by 60 per cent of the population which recognized this form of marriage. Measures were being taken to protect women in polygamous marriages, including through the Marriage Act, which required all marriages to be registered. Kenya acknowledged the challenges of polygamy, but this was a reality in the society.
Questions from the Experts
A Committee Expert commended the initiatives to strengthen the gender machinery in the country, in particular the setting up of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission, the National Gender and Equalities Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman, and the establishment of the Directorate of Gender in the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, and the Department of Gender Affairs.
The Committee was however concerned about the mandate and functioning of those institutions, and the resources allocated to each. What inter-institutional cooperation mechanisms and capacity-building programmes were in place to ensure harmonized implementation between the three different rights institutions? How were the mandate of the National Gender and Equalities Commission coordinated with the mandates of the National Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman?
What were the achievements thus far of the Directorate of Gender? Were the 100 gender officers recruited and deployed to various Government ministries?
The Performance Contract Monitoring Tool had been developed to capture the rate of implementation of gender mainstreaming objectives concerning employment and promotion, including the two-thirds gender representation in the public sector. Was there an impact assessment of the Tool and its effectiveness in regularly delivering the information needed for effective decision-making?
Another Expert commended Kenya for measures taken to increase the participation of women, the Constitutional provision for the two-thirds gender principle, and the extension of this principle to lists of political parties.
Was Kenya applying temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality in other fields, and if so, what was their impact? Was there a possibility to adopt temporary special measures to increase the number of women in the Khadi courts?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation explained that the principle of gender equality was anchored in the national development plan and the Sustainable Development Goal 5 in the national gender plan. The budgets for the State Department for Gender Affairs and the National Gender and Equalities Commission had seen a progressive increase over the past several years. Both institutions promoted the constitutional provision of gender equality; the Commission played an oversight role in promoting gender equality and freedom from discrimination, while the State Department implemented tangible programmes and initiatives for gender equality.
In terms of the major achievements by the State Department for Gender Affairs to date, the delegation said that gender mainstreaming into the budget was ongoing, and budget guidelines for 2016-17 had included the consideration of gender in setting the mid-term targets and pushing for Government accountability for gender budgeting. A system had been initiated for the centralized collection of sex disaggregated data as well as data on disability.
The State Department for Gender Affairs ensured that gender mainstreaming was being undertaken in all ministries through gender focal points, to build the staff capacity and comply with the constitution principle of two-thirds gender representation. Furthermore, the national strategy for the improvement of political representation of women had been launched and was being implemented, while funds were in place to support women’s economic empowerment. The development of gender development policy had been initiated.
Kenya had three human rights bodies – the Kenya National Human Rights Commission, the National Gender and Equalities Commission, and the Office of the Ombudsman – and each had its mandate and functions set out in the Constitution and the founding documents. There was no overlap between the three. The National Gender and Equalities Commission was in charge of promoting gender, equality and non-discrimination, and had been at the forefront of identifying cases of discrimination and proposing remedial action to the Government. The Commission on Administrative Justice, or the Ombudsman, was a body that anyone from the public could address if they felt that any public official was engaged in injustice, misbehaviour, inefficiency, or inaptitude. The Kenya National Human Rights Commission had the mandate to promote human rights and develop the culture of respect for human rights in the country, and did not specifically address gender equality.
As for the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule, the delegation explained that the Supreme Court advisory on the matter had been clear that this principle could not be realized immediately, and that the goal of at least 30 per cent of the members of parliament being women could only be implemented progressively. Measures were still not in place to operationalize this progressive approach. Kenya had taken steps to address electoral gender-based violence through awareness raising and civic education programmes focused on peace; as a result, there was less violence against women candidates during the August 2017 elections, and more women had been elected than ever before.
Questions from the Experts
Committee Experts took positive note of the action by Kenya to address negative stereotypes and traditions, including the revision of the education curriculum and engaging men in preventing violence against women. Still, the persistence of adverse norms and traditions, patriarchal practices and harmful traditional practices such as gender-based violence and early marriage, was alarming. Particularly worrying were extremely high rates of violence against women and gender-based violence, and the lack of investigations and prosecutions of cases.
The delegation was asked to provide data on prosecutions and sanctions for female genital mutilation, particularly in indigenous pastoralist communities; and sanctions and measures to eliminate the abominable practice of “beading” whereby girls as young as 7 were given to older males in the community in temporary marital relationships.
The delegation was also asked about the efforts to curb trafficking in persons and assist the victims, in particular children. Were there any cases of prosecution of public officials for collusion with human traffickers? What was the status of the implementation of the national referral mechanism? What strategy for the prosecution and sanctioning of perpetrators of trafficking in persons was in place?
What was being done to protect children from sexual exploitation, including refugee children, and to reduce demand for prostitution? How did Kenya envisage supporting women in prostitution to exit the profession?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation explained that the rate of female genital mutilation had significantly dropped over the past several years and now stood at 21 per cent. Kenya had prohibited female genital mutilation in 2011 and over the past two years, 77 cases had been handled, in which 10 sentences had been handed down, seven had been acquitted and over 50 cases were ongoing. The anti-female genital mutilation strategy had not yet been adopted, it was at the Cabinet level at the moment.
Measures to eliminate the practice of “beading” among the Samburu could be based on the legislation protecting children, but a specific law to deal with this harmful traditional practices was not yet in place. Research had been conducted which highlighted the connection between female genital mutilation and beading, and organizations working on the ground to eliminate female genital mutilation were now enlarging their field of action to also include “beading”. “Beading” involved sexual conduct against very young children and as such could be handled under the sexual offences act and defilement which carried a life prison sentence for those found guilty.
Awareness raising activities were focused on men, to increase the understanding that they had an important role to play in protecting their daughters or wives from harmful traditional practices, and to change the mind-set whereby only a woman who had undergone female genital mutilation was fit for marriage. Activities were ongoing with religious communities, particularly Muslim communities, to raise awareness about female genital mutilation and the messages there were focused on the fact that female genital mutilation was not required under the Quran or Islamic faith.
As there was a trend of medicalization of female genital mutilation, efforts were also directed at the medical profession, to raise their awareness about the ethical aspects of the procedure, as well as the fact that it was harmful and illegal.
Kenya had conducted human trafficking research which had shown that 33 per cent of victims were children, 26 per cent were men, and the rest were women; people were mainly trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation. The national assistance trust fund had been established, unfortunately it had no budget allocated last year, but this year, US$ 200,000 had been allocated. The Government was in the process of setting up shelters for victims of trafficking in persons, one in Nairobi and one in Mombasa. A hotline was in place to which all suspicions of information on human trafficking could be reported.
The collusion of public officials with traffickers was sanctioned under the anti-corruption crimes act and the bribery act. The delegation agreed that there was a very low awareness on the trafficking in persons act among the law enforcement officials, who mostly relied on the sexual offences act. The trafficking in persons in act was included in training of the police to increase the awareness and the application of the law.
So far in 2017, no female genital mutilation cases had been filed. In 2014/15, the conviction rate for the female genital mutilation cases stood at 74 per cent, and at 75 per cent the following fiscal year. The Office of Public Prosecutor worked closely with the female genital mutilation board on the operationalization of the female genital mutilation act and had been actively involved in the community sensitisation and training duty bearers. It also trained law enforcement and military officers in matters concerning sexual exploitation offences.
The prosecution data for the practice of “beading” were not available, the only data that could give insight into the prosecutorial action taken on this matter was data on defilement and child marriage cases.
As for women in prostitution being victimized by the police, the Government was sensitizing the police on how to deal with those women, and the national referral mechanism guidelines set out the operating procedures from the identification of the victim to connecting her to medical and other forms of assistance. Women could file complaints of gender-based violence through a toll free help line, or could address gender desks in the police stations.
Questions from the Experts
In the next round of questions, an Expert stressed that passing a law on political representation of women in the parliament was Kenya’s international obligation and asked about financial and other forms of assistance and support being provided to women candidates so that they could have a better chance of being elected.
What was the situation concerning the participation of women in leadership positions in the public and private sector companies? What had been done to identify and punish perpetrators of electoral violence against women?
The Marriage Act required customary marriages to be registered within three months, which enabled women to obtain the documents they needed to issue passports. What was being done to sensitize women about this provision and ensure that the spouse did not put obstacles to marriage registration.
Rates of birth registration in rural and remote areas were low – what was being done to facilitate access to birth registration facilities, especially for women from disadvantaged groups.
The Committee commended the 2015 decree to grant identity cards and land deeds to the stateless Makonde community and asked about steps taken to address the situation of other stateless groups such as the Pemba and others.
An Expert praised Kenya for its generous policy towards refugees and asylum-seekers and asked about access to identity cards and nationality for refugee women married to Kenyans and the children born from such marriages.
Responses by the Delegation
In response to the questions raised on increasing the political participation of women, the delegation said that women were being encouraged to vote, including through measures to facilitate the voting by fast-tracking pregnant women or women with small children through the queues. In addition, there were numerous civic education programmes for the population to increase the knowledge and awareness about the functioning of a parliamentary democracy and the important role that women played within.
Kenya was grappling with the question of refugees and the issue of nationality in this context had not been addressed as yet. The Government had taken steps to address the challenges faced by the stateless Nubian and Makonde populations, and had issued them with identity cards and title deeds and recognized them as a tribe of Kenya. Committees in the Somali-populated counties had been set up to issue identity cards, and all children were issued with birth certificates to avoid the problem of statelessness.
The Marriage Act had resolved a problem of access to passports for women in customary marriages, by requiring that all customary marriages be registered, and this enabled women to obtain a marriage certificate which was necessary to issue the passport. Kenya was aware that the sensitisation of women in customary knowledge and raising their knowledge about the registration process as defined by the Marriage Act was important.
Digitization of birth certificates was an ongoing process.
In public institutions, there was a requirement that gender policies were adopted in line with the constitutional provisions and that those policies were applied in the recruitment and promotion of staff.
The delegation said that the Government had to consult the Office of the Attorney General about the ratification of the 1994 Convention on Statelessness. As for women’s representation in the civil service, the two thirds gender rule worked on a competitive basis, and aimed to reflect various ethnicities in the country. In terms of ambassadorial appointments, out of 71 ambassadors, 20 were female.
The National Steering Committee was in charge of the implementation of the National Action Plan on Gender across the sectors. The Committee was representative of various sectors, including civil society.
Questions by Committee Experts
On education for women and girls, Experts commended an increase in the number of girls enrolled in secondary school, and in their completion rate. However, the issue of children out of school remained problematic. Girls dropped out of school due to pregnancy and early or forced marriages. There was a much lower number of girls studying at universities than boys. What special programmes were envisaged to be put in place to address the low school enrolment rate among girls? What major actions had been taken to ensure education for girls with disabilities and for girls who were victims of female genital mutilation, rape and gender-based violence? How much of the budget had been spent for education of women and girls? As for violence in schools, how many teachers had been prosecuted under the Children’s Act of 2001?
Turning to sexual harassment at the workplace, there were no sanctions when employers were diplomats or in a position of authority. Many families placed their daughters in families to perform domestic work. Many of them were subject to sexual abuse. Did the State party plan to draft a law in line with the International Labour Organization Convention 189?
Experts welcomed the introduction of the three-month paid maternity leave. Did the Labour Law include provisions prohibiting direct and indirect gender-based discrimination in line with the International Labour Organization Convention 111 of 1958?
Women continued to provide community and home-based care. But those contributions continued to be unrecognized in the calculation of the gross domestic product. Women produced the majority of food in Kenya and worked longer hours in the agricultural sector without additional remuneration. Did the State party plan to draw a study on the conditions of female agricultural workers?
As for access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, a number of problems remained. What measures had been taken to improve access to maternal healthcare free of charge? Did those services cover prenatal and post-natal periods? What was the scope of free healthcare and its impact on maternal health rates? The maternal mortality rate seemed to stem from the lack of access to safe abortion. What steps had been made to assess the impact of unsafe abortion on maternal mortality? Would the State party consider decriminalizing abortion? Was it possible to legalize abortion in case of rape?
In 2015 the country had not met the Millennium Development Goal on HIV/AIDS. What preventive steps had been made to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS? Was comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education provided to women with disabilities?
Replies by the Delegation
Answering questions about education, the delegation explained that the Government had taken steps to provide free primary and secondary education, and provide food and sanitary towels in schools in order to ensure that disadvantaged girls were able to access education. There were approximately one million out of school children due to cultural and religious practices. The Government had involved parents to ensure that all children were enrolled in school. Pregnant girls were allowed to go back home and to return to school after birth, and they were provided with counselling services. The Government had also put in place measures to enable girls with disabilities to have access to education. Learners with special needs received financial aid. As for university education, the Government applied affirmative action so that girls received loans and scholarships.
As for abuse of pupils by teachers, all disciplinary channels were implemented under the Children’s Act of 2001 and teachers who were sanctioned under that law could no longer teach in Kenya. The names of culprits were published in the Kenya Gazette. In addition, teachers were trained on how to help affected children overcome the trauma of sexual harassment.
On sexual harassment at the workplace, the Sexual Offences Act was under review as it had been suggested that it be expanded to hold persons in positions of authority and those in the private sector accountable.
The Government was taking steps to protect domestic workers through measures, such as registration of domestic workers for national health insurance and pension benefits. There were also initiatives to address their working hours.
With respect to the possibility for employers in the private sector to use the maternity leave to deny women access to employment, this was prohibited under the law and women had legal recourse. The Government ensured that employers followed practices aligned with constitutional provisions. The law was also clear about the need to protect casual labourers’ right to maternity leave.
The Government had launched a free of charge maternity health programme in 2013. There were sometimes problems of limited financial and human resources. Abortion was illegal unless the mother’s life was in danger. There was HIV/AIDS education at the school level and also sexual and reproductive health education to reduce the risk of adolescents seeking illegal abortion. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS among adolescents was high, which was why the President had launched an initiative to introduce youth-friendly services at clinics. Prostitutes had their own clinics where they could access health services.
Follow-up Questions by Experts
Would the State party align its regulations on female domestic workers with the International Labour Organization resolution 111?
Experts stressed the need to provide free of charge prenatal and post-natal healthcare for the poorest women. If sexual and reproductive health education did not go hand in hand with services, it would not be effective.
Were there any incentives for parents to send their daughters to school? What was the illiteracy rate among adult women and what actions had been taken to address that issue?
Experts noted that the State party needed to widen the scope of its restrictive abortion laws, which led to clandestine abortions. There was a need to streamline the provision of safe abortion across the country, not just in the capital.
With respect to the very wide discrepancy in university education among girls and boys, what steps had been taken to close that gap? What was being done to address the problem of chemicals used in flower farms and their impact on women’s fertility?
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation clarified that Kenya was still in the process of addressing the challenges faced by domestic workers. As for the impact of chemicals used in flower farms on women’s fertility, there had been a shift and more and more farms issued protective clothing to women.
Abortion was allowed under some circumstances, but it was not permitted unless approved by a trained medical professional. The law clearly stipulated cases in which abortion was allowed.
The literacy rate in Kenya stood at 74 per cent for women. The Government had established five institutions to educate adult learners.
Questions by Committee Experts
Experts inquired about the steps taken by the Government to ensure credit distribution to women. They commended the provision of funds and loans for start-up companies and women enterprise funds, but raised concern about the lack of awareness of women about those funds and loans. What was the profile of borrowers and was entrepreneurial capacity building available to women? Did the State party plan to place women in fund management positions?
Turning to rural women, Experts asked about the status of the gender policy for agricultural development, given that women made up between 60 to 80 per cent of the labour in agricultural production. What were the measures taken to guarantee women’s participation in decision-making in regard to rural development? What was the mechanism and what measures were in place to grant women greater access to land, credit, and banking services? What was the impact of the Table Banking Scheme launched by the Government to allow women to save and access loans?
As for the indigenous people of the Endorois community, what was the status of the task force on the implementation of the ruling of the African Court of Human and Peoples Rights that recognized their rights over their ancestral lands in the Kenya Rift Valley?
On women with disabilities, there were four broad areas of concern: protection of their sexual and reproductive health rights, legal capacity to own property, violence against them, and access to justice. There were reports of violence against older women who had been accused of witchcraft.
With respect to reports of violence against women and girls in the Baringo county by cattle raiders, was there a criminal offence of rustling and how did the State party address its obligations to provide security and safety?
Replies by the Delegation
On women’s access to public procurement opportunities, the delegation stated that 30 per cent of tenders had been reserved for women. The Women Enterprise Fund ensured that affordable and accessible loans were available to women, including capacity-building programmes. Those loans were interest free.
As for rural women, the Law on Succession Act was currently under review to address the issue of discrimination of women in land and property. Women had opportunities to participate in decision making on agricultural development through grass-root school boards, which had to comply with provisions on public participation and non-discrimination.
The Government was planning to map out incidences of violence against women with disabilities in rural areas, completion rates in school and the prevalence of pregnancies. On the Endorois community, in line with the Constitution, land should be managed in an equitable manner and in a way that did not discriminate on the basis of gender.
Questions by Committee Experts
Experts noted that the Matrimonial Property Act of 2014 still contained some discriminatory elements, adding that many lower courts still required the proof of contribution. Would the State party consider repealing that section of the Matrimonial Property Act? How did the requirement for the consent of the other spouse on any transaction of matrimonial property work in polygamy? There was also a problem with the Law of Succession Act which rendered void a widow’s inheritance rights if she remarried. Would that be reconsidered? Would the State party consider introducing post-divorce support for the spouse who left the marriage in a weaker economic position?
Replies by the Delegation
Under the Matrimonial Property Act, women were supposed to prove their contribution, which was considered as a setback. Nevertheless, the improvement was that the act took cognizance of monetary and non-monetary contributions of spouses. The proof of contribution could be challenged in court. The Law of Succession Act was under review and the Government hoped that it would address the issue of areas of inheritance still governed by customary law. There had been progressive jurisprudence in courts which ensured that women gained equal inheritance.
Follow-up Questions by Experts
Would the State party operationalise a climate change bill and take legal and administrative measures to address gender-related climate change impacts?
Replies by the Delegation
The Climate Change Act of 2016 had stipulated a national mandate to establish gender-oriented climate change programmes and plans, and had made provisions for the establishment of a climate change fund.
MWANAMAKA AMANI MABRUKI, Principal Secretary of the State Department of Gender Affairs of Kenya, reiterated the commitment of the Government of Kenya to uphold the country’s international obligations. The Government would not lose sight of the fact that gender equality and women’s empowerment lay in continued and constructive dialogue with the Committee.
DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for their responses and explanations, which had provided further insight into the situation of women and girls in Kenya. She encouraged the delegation to address the various concerns voiced by Committee Experts for the benefit of all women and girls in the country.
For use of the information media; not an official record