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Friday, 3 November, 2000, 16:03 GMT
Kenya tackles wife beaters
Picture of African women protesting against violence
Many cases of domestic violence are never reported
By Alice Muthengi in Nairobi

Wife beaters in Kenya risk up to a year in jail if a new bill to curb domestic violence becomes law.

Attorney General Amos Wako published the bill on Thursday aimed at stamping out cases of abuse in the home.


Some tribes regard wife beating as a man's way of expressing his love for his wife

The bill seeks to protect husbands, wives and children alike.

Cases of wife beating have been on the increase in Kenya where it is regarded as a normal practice.

Last year alone, up to 50 women were reportedly killed by their partners.

State protection

The bill defines domestic violence to include physical, sexual as well as mental abuse, harassment and threats.

Bill highlights
Punishes with a year in jail
Proposes fines of up to $1,300
Protects children from violent parents and forced marriages
Violent partners can be ordered from home
Promises compensation and protection for victims
Forbids media coverage of cases
It shields children forced into early marriages by their parents due to cultural or other practices.

Children will be allowed to apply for protection through a police or children's officer and may be separated from the offending family for up to one year.

Abused spouses and children will now be allowed to seek compensation from a special government fund.

The stipulated fund will cover the costs for treatment, counselling and legal assistance for the victims of domestic violence.

If passed, the bill will ensure private hearings of cases and prevent the media from reporting such cases.

Love

Wife beating is rampant in Kenya, but only a few cases are reported in the local media or to the authorities.

A Kenyan woman with child
The bill will protect husbands, wives and children
The International Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida) said in 1998 nearly 60 women were killed in domestic violence.

The organisation says three in every five women in the capital Nairobi, are assaulted at home.

Most victims do not seek redress for fear of stigmatisation, says Fida.

Some tribes regard wife beating as a man's way of expressing his love for his wife.

Many people here welcomed the bill, seen as a victory for a protracted campaign by women groups and human rights activists against violence in the home.

But whether or not the proposed laws achieve their intended goals, depends largely on their enforcement.

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See also:

06 Oct 00 | Africa
Kenya's vigilante problem
06 Oct 00 | Africa
Kenya lynch mob fears
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