Kenya: The Elusive Sexual Offences Amendments

Female legislators have twice attempted to amend the Sexual Offences Act (2006) to no avail.

In 2016, Busia Woman Representative Florence Mutua introduced amendments among them prohibition of plea bargaining and expounding on forms of sexual harassment.

The amendment bill had proposed that any person initiating or conniving to conceal a sexual offence should face a jail term of five years or be fined Sh500,000.

Had it passed, it would be criminal for anyone to solicit money, domestic animals or any other property as compensation from the suspect, marrying off the victim to the suspected offender, preventing police officers from conducting investigations or distorting evidence.

She had also proposed criminalising unwarranted touching of another person's genital organs, breasts and buttocks. This particular proposal was vehemently opposed by male legislators who claimed it was punitive and could be used to victimise men. Finally, the legislators mainly men, voted in its disfavour at the second reading.

Last year, Kiambu Women Representative Gathoni wa Muchomba came up with fresh amendments.

She sought to strengthen collection and storage of sexual assault evidence through establishment of Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Tracking System.

With the electronic system, the relevant stakeholders could keep guard of the evidence collected from the survivor. It could have a tracking mechanism showing the location of the evidence and its status.

Electronic system

"The electronic system will involve a victim getting a chip with a secret number. The number is registered on a mobile application accessible to the victim," Ms Muchomba had earlier explained.

"The victim is able to log into the application and track his or her case. Information like results from Government Chemist, progress made by Office of Directorate of Public Prosecution, case number or whether the doctor's report has been received will all be made available to the victim," she added.

The Bill gazetted in August last year, however, never made it to first reading according to Parliament's Bill tracker.

Now, judges are also pushing for review of the law to proscribe specified penalties for juvenile sexual offenders.

They argue that the current law decriminalising sex between two minors is working against boys who are jailed yet they may have engaged in consensual sex.

During an April 29, Facebook live discussion on ending sexual harassment in public transport, Lang'ata MP Nixon Korir, said the Act should be amended to give clarity on different forms of sexual harassment and penalties thereof. It should also tighten how evidence is collected to facilitate successful prosecution of the cases, he said.

"As it is now a victim has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that sexual harassment actually happened... but when you look at our systems, we might not have a lot of capacity in terms of tracking and storing evidence... someone can go to court and walk scot free yet they have committed an offence," he said.

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