Kenya's laws and how they protect survivors of sexual violence
- In 2014, the Reproductive and Maternal Health Services Unit under the Ministry of Health came up with National Guidelines on Management of Sexual Violence in Kenya.
- These guidelines map out management of sexual violence and focus on the necessity to avail quality services that address the medical, psychosocial and legal needs of sexual violence survivors.
- The Sexual Offences Act 2006 was enacted to ensure victims of sexual offences get justice commensurate to the harm caused to them.
The government recognises sexual violence as a public health concern and has been in the forefront of drafting, enacting and implementing laws to curb the vice.
In 2014, the Reproductive and Maternal Health Services Unit under the Ministry of Health came up with National Guidelines on Management of Sexual Violence in Kenya.
These guidelines map out management of sexual violence and focus on provision of quality services that address survivors' medical, psychosocial and legal needs.
They also cater for the needs of children, whose cases make up 60 per cent of all those presented in health facilities countrywide.
Sexual Offences Act, 2006 was enacted to ensure victims of sexual offences get justice commensurate with the harm they suffer.
Among the sexual offences the Act prohibits are defilement to attempted defilement, rape to attempted rape, sexual harassment and sexual exploitation.
The law includes the definitions of different types of sexual offences and provides for prevention and protection of all persons from harm arising these acts.
It defines rape as the unlawful use of one’s private parts to penetrate another person’s private parts without permission, using force, threats, coercion or intimidation.
In the law, defilement is defined as having sexual intercourse with a minor. In Kenya, anyone below 18 years is considered a minor.
The Act was the first legislation in Kenya’s legal history to recognise sexual harassment as a crime.
It removed some sections in the Penal Code which dealt with sexual offences and added tougher punishments.
The sentences for the above mentioned offences range from five years to life in prison.
The Children’s Act has put in place provisions aimed at safeguarding their rights and welfare.
The Act stipulates that all activities done on behalf of children should be in their best interest.
It guarantees girls and boys the right to protection from physical and psychological abuse, neglect and any other form of exploitation including sale, trafficking or abduction.
The Act also protects children from female genital mutilation (FGM), early marriage and other cultural rites and practices which are harmful to their development.
It also prohibits sexual exploitation of children as well as actions that expose them to torture or cruel or inhumane treatment, such as circumcision or child marriages.
Offences in the Act include rape, attempted rape, gang rape, sexual assault, defilement, attempted defilement, child trafficking, child prostitution, child pornography, incest and sexual harassment.
The Penal Code outlaws all acts of violence in its provisions. However, it does not sufficiently address sexual gender-based violence which is rampant within the Kenyan society.
This inadequacy in addressing SGBV, according to gender activists, presents challenges in the fight against the vice.
SOURCES: National Guidelines on Management of Sexual Violence in Kenya. Ministry of health Reproductive and Maternal Health Services Unit 3rd edition, 2014.