9 May 2005

Kenya: Bill to Make Sexual Harassment a Crime

Nairobi — A new Bill seeks to make sexual harassment in the office a crime.

The offence will attract a maximum of five years in jail or a Sh500,000 fine or both, if the Bill is passed into law.

Teachers and other employees in schools who subject students or pupils to sexual harassment should be sent to jail for 20 years without the option of a fine, the Bill proposes.

It seeks a similar penalty for prison officers, warders and other people in positions of authority in institutions dealing with women and children who are found guilty of sexual harassment.

Where the sexual offence does not amount to rape, offenders will get 20 years in jail without the option of a fine if convicted.

Also to face the sentence will be managers or staff of hospitals who commit such offences against patients.

The Bill proposes that they serve between 20 years and life in jail, with hard labour.

The Bill describes sexual harassment as "unlawful, unsolicited and unwelcome sexual advances or request for sexual favours."

Employers or managers who demand sexual favours in return for promotions will be punished.

The bracket includes sexual harassment in school where teachers, tutors or lecturers seek sexual favours in return for higher grades for their students or pupils.

Currently, there is no law that deals with this category of sexual offences and many pupils and students continue to live with predatory teachers and lecturers without much recourse.

Sexually suggestive jokes, leering, intrusive sexual remarks, touching or fondling and exhibiting sexually explicit materials, gadgets or organs, will also be an offence.

The manner of dress may also attract legal punishment if it is proved that someone has dressed in a manner which "exposes his or her genital organs" with the intention that "someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress."

It will also be an offence to break into any premises or structure with intent to commit a sexual offence.

The offence will attract a sentence of no more than two years in jail.

Administering any substance to someone else without his or her consent, with the intention of stupefying or overpowering that person, will be regarded as an offence and the guilty party could face up to ten years in jail.

Copyright © 2005 The Nation. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.