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UN rights experts urge repeal of Kenya marital property law

Experts from the UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice [official website], along with several other special groups within the UN, urged [press release] Kenya on Monday to repeal sections of the Marriage and Property Act [text]. According to the experts, the provisions effectively deny women the right to marital property upon divorce or death of their spouse without a showing that the woman made a contribution to property acquisition during marriage. The act became effective as of January 16, 2014, and could cost many women in Kenya lands where they currently reside, farm and generate income. The provisions were criticized for violating Kenya's human rights obligations to women under equal access to land and property rights. The head of the working group, Frances Raday stated that "very few women will be able to demonstrate such a contribution under the new provisions, since few Kenyan women have land title deeds in their own names and even less hold deeds jointly with men." The inability to demonstrate a woman's contribution could decrease a woman's security if the a woman's husband leaves his wife or children by removing all rights the woman has to her home and method of subsistence.

The UN and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] have been calling for increased legal protections of women's rights worldwide. Last Thursday, HRW urged [JURIST report] the Somali government to adopt reforms to help prevent sexual violence against women and provide support for victims. Two weeks ago, HRW reported [JURIST report] that Iraqi security officials are detaining thousands of women illegally and subjecting them to torture, ill-treatment and threats of sexual abuse. Also that week, HRW encouraged [JURIST report] Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai [official website] to refuse to sign a law passed by parliament that they say would deny women protection from domestic violence and forced marriage. Early this month, the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo [official profile] called on [JURIST report] the island nation of Seychelles to establish a National Action Plan to combat human trafficking, and to hasten to pass the draft anti-trafficking bill currently circulating in its legislature.

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