23 November 2012

Kenya: Illiteracy a Stumbling Block to Migori Women Getting Justice

Poverty, illiteracy and corruption have been cited as stumbling blocks that bar women to access justice in Migori county. According to a research Baseline survey on Access to Justice for Women in Migori County, the illiteracy levels are about 79 per cent.

It said because of the low literacy levels, many women have not read the constitution and therefore do not know their rights. "This research shows that despite the gains that have been made in the area of women empowerment, the social, economic and political status of women remains low," the chairperson of Foundation for Women's Rights in Kenya said Margaret Wanjiku.

The foundation conducted the research.

The research found that 72 per cent of women prefer to seek justice through the police instead of the Judiciary. Fifty-eight per cent of them complained of corruption, lack of a gender desk at the police stations and police officers who are unsympathetic to women problems.

But speaking during the launch of the report at a local hotel in Migori town, magistrate Grace Kirugumi said the research was conducted before the impact of the Judiciary reforms could be felt.

A FWRK board member Alice Njau, said cultural practices like FGM, early marriages and wife inheritance compounds the women problems further.

More than 60 per cent of the women said domestic violence was rampant. The research said about 34 per cent of the women are affected by the violence.

"Due to low literacy levels approximately 79 per cent of residents in the county said awareness of women rights was low and haven't read the constitution or know of other laws that protect right of women," the research, said.

The study which was carried between September 1-15 last year also found 29.4 per cent women in are sexually harassed and discriminated on land and property ownership, right to income from land and denied right to do business.

"Judiciary wasn't preferred because in the county there are only magistrate courts in Migori, Kehancha and Migori with a High Court only based in Kisii," the survey said.

The survey was officially launched by the chairperson of National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) Winfred Lichuma who lauded the survey saying it was import and the oice of Migori County was informed trend and culture undermining women access to justice.

"This finding should offer sober reflection to government and non-state actors the dire situation across the country women face in the patriarchal society and fill gap between genders in seeking justice," Lichuma said in a speech read by NGEC CEO Rose Odhiambo.

She added that the survey came at a better time when the country is internalizing the new constitution and asserts its will especially concerning women empowerment.'

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