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Kenya parliament passes sex-crimes legislation

[JURIST] Kenya's National Assembly has unanimously approved a sex-crimes law after a month of heated debate over several controversial provisions, most of which were dropped in order to pass the bill [AllAfrica.com report]. Legislators dropped provisions criminalizing marital rape and female genital mutilation, as well as a provision shifting the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused. The bill does, however, set the age of consent at 16 and extend jail sentences to five years to life for sex crimes, as well as include provisions for child prostitution and sex trafficking. The bill will now advance to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] for approval.

The new sex-crimes legislation, the first revision of an outdated 1930 rape law, comes in response to the "epidemic of rape" in Kenya, where a woman is raped every 30 seconds. Though most of the female MPs negotiating the bill wanted to include the stronger marital rape and female genital mutilation provisions, they are happy that Kenya has "taken a step in the right direction," according to Jane Onyango, chair of the International Federation of Women Lawyers [advocacy website]. More than half of Kenya's 18 female MPs walked out of negotiations [BBC report] believing that some male MPs made sexist remarks, particularly lawmaker Paddy Ahenda, who suggested that the sex-crimes bill unfairly punished men because women often say no to sex when they mean yes. Reuters has more. Africa's Mail & Guardian has local coverage.

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