Women take violence fight to the UN

November 27, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, November 27 – Kenya could soon spearhead a process to push the UN General Assembly to initiate a convention on violence against women.

This follows latest government demographic survey indicating that one in every two women in the country suffer violence in their lifetime.

Nominated Member of Parliament Millie Odhiambo said on Thursday this was necessitated by the increased cases of gender violence which she blamed on lack of a binding law on the vice.

“We have the will and potential to do it,” she said. “We have to first meet as the Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association and as the parliamentary caucus on children and then we see how we can work around it as a country before we move to the next level with other countries.”

She said this would then be presented to the UN General Assembly, which would in turn give the proposal to the relevant committee to come up with a specific convention.

“But once it is passed, it wouldn’t automatically become law.  There has to be a specific number of countries which would be specified in the convention that have to ratify it, for it to have an effective date,” Ms Odhiambo added.

The MP said that there was no specific treaty on violence against women despite the existence of a conventions on women’s rights.

“There is only a declaration which is not binding.  The countries can follow it at will, but a convention is a binding law.  Once the country ratifies or signs it, it becomes obligatory on the country to implement,” she explained.

The legislator also noted that women parliamentarians would ensure they push for the passing of Gender Responsive Bills which include reintroduction of the Family Protection or Domestic Violence Bill. This had been introduced in the last Parliament but lapsed.

The others, she said were laws working against Female Genital Mutilation and a Victim Protection Bill.

“If you look at the way our law is framed, it focuses more on the accused than the victim of crime. So we are bringing a Motion to ask the government to set up a fund for victim protection including giving financial assistance and shelter where necessary,” she added.

Paul Smith-Lomas of Oxfam said the campaign would not be just about bringing change in women’s lives but also in men.

“Why continue to allow a normal society to reduce the dignity of half of the people.  Why tie one hand behind our backs as we try and face the challenges of today and tomorrow,” he remarked.

He said violence was not just about things that required medical attention, but anything that hurts.

“There is no justification for this violence and we all have a responsibility to make it end and change is possible. We can end violence against women.”

They were speaking at the launch of a five-year campaign against gender violence dubbed ‘We Can.’


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