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New York: UN experts urge Kenya to repeal discriminatory marriage property act

New York, US - UN human rights experts have urged Kenya to repeal sections of its Marriage and Property Act which effectively strip women of marital property upon divorce or death of their spouse, unless they can prove they made a contribution to the acquisition of the property during their marriage.

A joint statement by the experts, made available to PANA in New York on Tuesday, said:

'It is expected 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.'

One of the experts, Ms. Frances Raday, who currently heads the UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice, called the provisions 'serious retrogressive steps' in the protection of women's equal access to land and property.

Ms. Raday said they are also in violation of Kenya's international and regional human rights obligations.

'They clearly discriminate against Kenyan women and are squarely at odds with equality provisions enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution,' she said.

The statement noted that the Act, which came into force on 16 Jan. 2014, could result in many Kenyan women losing access to the lands where they live and farm.

It said many rural households in Kenya are headed by women, who rely on the land not only to produce food, but also on the income generated by it to access health care services and educational opportunities for themselves and their families.

'Women will effectively have no security of tenure, or place to live with their children if their husband leaves them or dies, which will also increase their risk of experiencing violence.

'The passage of the Act will have a detrimental impact on the right to food, the right to adequate housing and the right to an adequate standard of living for Kenyan women, children and communities,' the statement said.

It noted that the experts' appeal was endorsed by UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Ms. Magdalena Sepulveda; the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Mr.  Olivier De Schutter; the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, and the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Mr. Raquel Rolnik.

Pana 18/02/2014