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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 June 2006, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Anger at Kenya's diluted rape law
Health Minister Charity Ngilu
Health Minister Charity Ngilu walked out of parliament during the debate in April
Kenyan women's rights activists have condemned parliament for watering down a new sex crimes law.

The bill was passed but key sections to outlaw marital rape and female genital mutilation were scrapped.

Campaigner Anne Njogu told the BBC it was "obscene" that women found to have made false rape accusations now face the same sentences as rapists.

The month-long debate of the Sexual Offences Bill saw bitter exchanges and a walk-out by female MPs.

Kenyans can still have sex with their partners even when they are asleep so long as they are married
MP Kenneth Marende
The bill, which still has to be signed into law by President Mwai Kibaki, introduced minimum sentences for rape and widened the definition of rape to include offences against men and boys.

It also introduced minimum sentences for rape.

Many Kenyans are alarmed by a huge rise in the incidence of sexual abuse.

'Shell'

Ms Njogu, director of the Centre for Women's Rights Education and Awareness told the BBC's Network Africa programme that the bill had been changed because Kenya's parliament is dominated by men.

"It is the same chauvinistic, paternalistic, very, very parochial attitudes towards women," she said.

"As far as men are concerned, rape is about sex but you and I know rape is not sex."

MP Kenneth Marende said he welcomed the dropping of the marital rape clause.

"Kenyans can still have sex with their partners even when they are asleep so long as they are married," he told parliament.

During the debate, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua said the introduction of tough sentences for false accusations would discourage women from going to the police after being raped.

Assistant minister Beth Mugo said the final version was a "shell of the bill".

'Right direction'

But not all women's rights campaigners were upset.

"It was less than what we had hoped for, but it is more or less a step in the right direction," said Jane Onyango, chair of the Federation of Kenyan Women Lawyers.

In April, 12 of Kenya's 18 female MPs walked out in protest, after MP Paddy Ahenda told parliament that women usually say "No" to sex, even if they mean "Yes", unless they were prostitutes.

Several male MPs feared that the original bill went too far and could lead to a spate of false accusations by women.

"If the bill is adopted the way it is, it will prevent men from courting women and this will be a serious impediment to the young who would want to marry," said Mr Ahenda.

The bill's first version recommended that rapists be castrated but this was dropped before being debated in parliament.


SEE ALSO:
Castrate rapists say Kenyan MPs
28 Apr 05 |  Africa
Kenyan apology over rape remark
11 Feb 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Kenya
07 Jan 05 |  Country profiles


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