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Kenya: Domestic violence; organizations and other resources for battered women; government programs, legislation and state protection available to women who are victims of domestic violence and their family members (2003-July 2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Ottawa
Publication Date 20 July 2005
Citation / Document Symbol KEN100271.FE
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Kenya: Domestic violence; organizations and other resources for battered women; government programs, legislation and state protection available to women who are victims of domestic violence and their family members (2003-July 2005), 20 July 2005, KEN100271.FE, available at: [accessed 1 June 2016]
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Current situation

Corroborating sources stated that violence against women, including domestic violence, is widespread in Kenya (AI 2005, 59; Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; Kenya July 2004). In its annual report published in 2005, Amnesty International indicated that in Kenya, [AI English version] "[w]omen and girls were also subjected to domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, including of young children, incest, forced marriages and female genital mutilation" (59).

The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), conducted nationwide in 2003, revealed that nearly half of the women in Kenya between the ages of 15 and 49 were victims of violence, and that one out of four women had been a victim of violence in the 12 months preceding the survey (Kenya July 2004, 242). The results of the survey also showed that in 58 per cent of cases of violence against women between the ages of 15 and 49, the spouse was the perpetrator of the violence; the mother, father or brother were the aggressors in 24, 15 and 8 per cent of cases, respectively (ibid., 243). The survey also indicated that 40 per cent of married, separated or divorced women had experienced physical abuse, while 26 per cent had been subjected to psychological abuse, and 16 per cent experienced sexual abuse (ibid., 250).

In a 10 March 2005 letter addressed to the members of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the Executive Director and the Deputy Director of the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote that, in the case of Kenyan women, "access to property usually hinges on her relationship to a man, be it her husband, father, son, or other male relative" (HRW 10 Mar. 2005, "Background"). The authors of the letter further explained that when the relationship ends in death, divorce or separation, the woman "stands a good chance of losing her home, land, livestock, household goods, money, vehicles, and other property" (ibid.). The letter stated that Kenyan widows are often stripped of their goods and evicted from their spouse's home (ibid., "Violations of Property in Kenya"). In some regions, if a widow wants to retain her family property, she must undergo a "ritual 'cleansing', which involves sex with a social outcast, usually without a condom"; she may also be forced to marry a relative of her deceased husband (ibid.).

Country Reports 2004 stated that in Kenya, "[t]raditional culture permitted a husband to discipline his wife by physical means and was ambivalent about the seriousness of spousal rape" (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). According to the same source, "[t]here is no law specifically prohibiting spousal rape" (ibid.). However, the results of the survey mentioned earlier showed that approximately 20 per cent of married Kenyan women are forced to have sex with their husband (Kenya July 2004, 245).

State protection

In its annual report published in 2005, Amnesty International noted the creation of [AI English version] "a special unit in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to handle sexual offences," as well as [AI English version] "a women-only police station (Kilimani Police Station, Nairobi) to deal exclusively with rape, domestic violence and child abuse cases" (59).

The same source stated that perpetrators of sexual crimes are rarely convicted, owing to [AI English version] "a lack of trained police officers to carry out investigations, to difficulties in the preservation of forensic evidence in rape cases, and to a lack of lawyers with specialized training to prosecute such cases" (AI 2005, 59; see also Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). In addition, Country Reports 2004 indicated that "cultural inhibitions against publicly discussing sex . . . [and the] disinclination of police to intervene in domestic disputes" also contribute to the low rate of convictions in domestic violence cases (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

In a 29 April 2005 report, the United Nations Human Rights Committee stated that it was very concerned that [UN English version] "domestic violence against women remains a recurrent practice in Kenya and that women do not benefit from adequate legal protection against acts of sexual violence-another widespread phenomenon" (UN 29 Apr. 2005, para. 10).

In addition, the Committee urged Kenyan authorities to

[UN English version]

adopt effective and concrete measures to combat these phenomena[,] sensitize society as a whole to this matter, ensure that the perpetrators of such violence are prosecuted and provide assistance and protection to victims. The draft Family Protection (Domestic Violence) Bill should be enacted as soon as possible (ibid., para. 11).

The Committee also recommended that

[UN English version]

the draft bill that would eliminate inequality of spouses with regard to marriage, divorce, devolution of property and other rights . . . be adopted without delay. The State party should prohibit polygamous marriages (ibid., para. 10).

The public institutions responsible for caring for victims of domestic violence do not offer housing, psychological support or appropriate medical treatment (AI 2005, 59; see also Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

Regarding property rights, the authors of the 10 March 2005 letter mentioned earlier singled out the Kenyan courts, which are reportedly "biased against women, slow, corrupt, and often staffed with ill-trained or incompetent judges and magistrates" (HRW 10 Mar. 2005, "Contributing Factors"). They are also critical of the fact that no corrective measures have been implemented by the Kenyan authorities or police, who nevertheless acknowledge that women have "unequal property rights" (ibid.).

In correspondence dated 28 June 2005, the coordinator of the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW-Kenya), a women's non-governmental organization, informed the Research Directorate that "there are no programs put in place by the government to address cases of domestic violence." She explained that even the Domestic Violence Bill (also known as the Family Protection Bill) has been pending in parliament for more than five years (COVAW 28 June 2005).

Non-governmental organizations and resources for battered women

The COVAW-Kenya coordinator stated that a number of women's non-governmental organizations, including COVAW, the Federation of Women Lawyers – Kenya (FIDA-Kenya), the Centre for Rehabilitation and Education of Abused Women (CREAW) and the Women's Resource Access Programme (WRAP), help battered women (ibid.). Without going into detail on the nature of the assistance provided by the three other organizations, the COVAW-Kenya coordinator explained that WRAP provides six weeks of shelter to women who are victims of domestic violence (ibid.).

The Gender-Based Violence Prevention Network (GBV Prevention Network) Website stated that, in addition to providing shelter for women who are victims of violence, CREAW offers them free legal and medical services (n.d.). However, according to the COVAW-Kenya coordinator, non-governmental organizations that help battered women cannot reach all the victims due to insufficient government assistance (COVAW 28 June 2005).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within the time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 2005. "Kenya." Rapport 2005. Paris: Éditions francophones d'Amnesty International.

Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) – Kenya, Nairobi. 28 June 2005. Correspondence from the coordinator.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. United States Department of State. Washington, D.C. [Accessed 28 June 2005]

The Gender-Based Violence Prevention Network (GBV Prevention Network). N.d. "Centre For Rehabilitation and Education of Abused Women (CREAW) – Kenya." [Accessed 11 July 2005]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 10 March 2005. Jefferson, LaShawn R. and Walsh, J. "Review of Kenya's Compliance with the ICCPR." [Accessed 21 June 2005]

Kenya. July 2004. Central Bureau of Statistics et al. Kenya, Demographic and Health Survey 2003. Betty Khasakhala-Mwenzi et al. Chapter 15. "Gender Violence." [Accessed 1 Feb. 2005]

United Nations (UN). 29 April 2005. Human Rights Committee. Examen des rapports présentés par les états parties en application de l'article 40 du pacte. (CCPR/CO/83/KEN). [Accessed 24 June 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: AllAfrica; Amnesty International; BBC Africa; Daily Nation; East Africa; Famafrique; Femmes, droits et développement en Afrique; Human Rights Watch (HRW); Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN); Kenya Times; United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); Women Living Under Muslim Laws; Women's eNews.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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