Women and Justice: Jurisdiction

Domestic Case Law

Magerer v. Republic High Court of Kenya at Bomet (2016)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting, Harmful traditional practices

The appellant was convicted of (i) aiding the commission of female genital mutilation (“FGM)” on several girls, (ii) failing to report the commission of FGM, and (iii) allowing her premises to be used to perform FGM.  She pled guilty to the crimes and was sentenced to pay a fine of Kshs. 200,000 (or 3 years of imprisonment if she defaulted on the payment).  On appeal, she argued that the sentence was overly harsh and oppressive because she was a single mother of three children.  Justice M. Muya upheld her sentence, as it was the minimum allowed under the Female Genital Mutilation Act.  The Justice in this case noted that within this case “lies the clash between traditional values and the law of the land.”  Even though the appellant was abiding by a customary practice, it was in violation of Kenyan criminal law, and thus the appellate court upheld her sentence. 

Nduta v. Republic High Court of Kenya at Siaya (2015)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices

The appellant appealed his conviction and sentence for injuring his wife, who he inherited according to customary practice after her husband died in 2002.  On November 8, 2013, his wife attempted to pack clothes to visit her children in Nairobi.  The appellant refused to let his wife travel and threatened to murder her.  The appellant cut both of his wife’s arms using a panga (machete), but she managed to escape to her nephew’s home.  The nephew saw the appellant armed with the panga and a knife before taking his aunt to the police station and later the hospital.  The appellant was convicted of Grievous Harm Contrary to Section 234 of the Penal Code and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.  He appealed, arguing that the trial court failed to consider that this was a mere domestic issue that could have been resolved by village elders.  The appellant asked for a non-custodial sentence citing the fact he was an elderly man (78 years old).  The High Court upheld the conviction and the sentence, noting, “The appellant’s actions amounted to violence against women.  It is my view a gender-based violence which the court cannot condone or tolerate and let perpetrators of violence against women and girls go unpunished.”  This case demonstrates the relationship between the criminal courts in Kenya and customary law. 

P.O. v. Board of Trustees, A.F., et al. Industrial Court at Nairobi (2014)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, International law, Sexual harassment

The claimant accompanied one of respondents, a co-worker “J.”, on a work-related trip.  Throughout the business trip, J. made sexual innuendos towards the claimant and when his advances failed, he physically beat her.  He booked a single hotel room, while the claimant believed she would have her own room.  As a result, the claimant was forced to sleep on the floor and returned to Kenya two days later, while J. continued to the conference.  Upon the claimant’s return, she received multiple threatening emails from J. and her employment was terminated as of May 24, 2010 for alleged “misconduct” for not travelling to the conference.  Her salary for May was unpaid.  Although there were numerous legal issues decided in this case, including jurisdiction, the key issue was whether the claimant was subjected to gender-based discrimination and thus unlawfully terminated, and what, if any, entitlement is due to her.  The Industrial Court determined that J.’s conduct toward the claimant, no matter where it had occurred, clearly amounted to gender-based violence against an employee, and that his conduct “had the effect of nullifying or impairing the equality of opportunity or treatment in employment, based on her sex.”  The Industrial Court awarded P total compensation of Kshs 3,240,000, which included general damages for sexual harassment, and unfair and wrongful termination of Kshs 3,000,000.  This case is important to demonstrate Kenyan courts afford protection against sexual violence in multiple ways, including equal opportunity and human rights legislation, labor legislation, civil remedies and criminal law.  In addition to Kenyan employment law, the Industrial Court also relied on the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the International Labour Organization, as well as other forms of jurisprudence to support eradicating violence and sexual discrimination against women in the workplace.  The decision noted that while the Constitution of Kenya was not yet in effect and thus not directly applicable when the case was tried, Articles 1, 3 and 5 of the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights were included in the Kenyan Constitution and thus were applicable at the time the case occurred.

A.M.L. v. Republic High Court of Kenya at Mombasa (2012)

Statutory rape or defilement

The appellant was convicted of defilement for having intercourse numerous times with a 16-year-old, which is under the age of consent.  A.M.L. appealed his conviction and ten-year sentence on four grounds: (i) failure to conduct a voir dire examination on the victim before obtaining her testimony, (ii) failure to conduct a DNA test on the appellant, (iii) insufficiency of evidence, and (iv) the court’s failure to adequately consider his defense.  The State wished to enhance A.M.L.’s sentence on appeal.  The appellate court found that adequate evidence had been presented at trial that justified the charge of defilement.  However, the court found ten-year sentence imposed by the trial magistrate unlawful because 15 years is the legal mandatory minimum sentence for the defilement of a girl aged between 16 and 18 years.  Accordingly, AML’s sentence was enhanced to 15 years and his conviction upheld.

Republic v. C.W. High Court of Kenya at Siaya (2016)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The defendant was accused of the killing of her husband. She entered into a plea agreement to reduce the charge of murder to manslaughter.  The deceased returned home on May 7, 2016, intoxicated and accused the defendant of infidelity.  A violent domestic fight ensued and the defendant used a kitchen knife to fatally stab the deceased.  The defendant was also injured by the deceased during the altercation.  The defendant asked the court for a non-custodial sentence based on a number of mitigating circumstances including the fact that the defendant is the primary caregiver of her three children with the deceased, aged five, three, and one.  Relatives and friends of the deceased confirmed that he was verbally and physically abusive to the defendant and the killing occurred in “the heat of the moment.”  Furthermore, the defendant had no prior record, demonstrated remorse, and the deceased’s family and the community had forgiven her and were willing to help her raise her children.  The High Court agreed that these factors merited a non-custodial status, adding that the defendant is both the accused and the victim, and was acting in self-defense even though she used excessive force.  The High Court handed down a three-year non-custodial sentence.  This case marks an important example of Kenyan courts treating victims of domestic violence with leniency where excessive force is used while defending themselves from their abuser.

Estate of Lerionka Ole Ntutu High Court of Kenya at Nairobi (Family Division) (2008)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Property and inheritance rights

Lerionka Ole Ntutu was survived by multiple wives, sons, and daughters.  After his sons filed an application asking the High Court to issue to them the letters of administration to administer their father’s estate, their sisters and stepsisters filed an objection and claimed their inheritance.  The sons contested the objection, arguing that the distribution of their father’s estate was governed by Masai customary law, which did not recognize the right of daughters to claim an inheritance from their father’s estate.  The judge in the first instance found that, because Ntutu was Masai and lived in an area excluded from the Succession Act, his estate should be divided accorded to Masai custom.  The judge thus held that none of the daughters could inherit from their father’s estate.  In ruling on the daughters’ appeal, the Court of Appeal invoked international treaties and covenants, including CEDAW, in finding that the daughters of the deceased person in that case were entitled to a share of his estate.  On appeal before the High Court, the definitive question before Lady Justice K. Rawal was whether the Court should apply the Law of Succession Act or the customary law of the Masai community.  The High Court was satisfied that, even if the Law of Succession Act allowed Ole Ntutu’s community to apply customary law in the distribution of his estate, any tenet of such customary law that would abrogate the right of daughters to inherit the estate of a father would be repugnant to justice and morality and could not be applied.  The High Court thus ruled that Ole Ntutu’s daughters were entitled to inherit their father’s land.

W.J. and L.N. v. Amkoah, Jamhuri Primary School, The Teachers Service Commission and the Attorney General (Petition No. 331 of 2011) High Court of Kenya at Nairobi (Constitutional and Human Rights Division) (2011)

International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

In July 2010, W.J. and L.N, 12- and 13-year-old female students at Jamhuri Primary School, were invited to the home of their teacher, Astarikoh Henry Amkoah. Amkoah forced the girls to perform household chores and later attempted to defile W.J. in the restroom and defiled L.N. in the hall. On several occasions later that month, Amkoah raped both girls. The girls’ education was severely interrupted by the trauma of Amkoah’s attacks and L.N. dropped out of school completely. Ultimately, Amkoah was acquitted in criminal court. In this suit filed by their guardians, W.J. and L.N. sued claiming that Amkoah’s actions unconstitutionally interfered with their rights to health, education, and dignity, and claimed that the school and state should be vicariously liable for the teacher’s actions. They invited the court to look at the claims from the perspective of a tort in negligence and as a human rights violation. However, the violations took place prior to the adoption of a revised 2010 Constitution, so the Court was required to rely partially on the 1963 Constitution which did not include those same guarantees. Still, the 1963 Constitution offered a right to freedom and security of the person. Additionally, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted through Kenya’s Children Act, promises children the right to be free from sexual or physical violence, the right to receive an education, and the right to dignity. As a result, the Court was able to rely on the guarantees of the Children Act. Moreover, Justice Ngugi recognized the 2010 constitutional right to dignity as a continuing right, meaning that while the initial crime may have occurred prior to the 2010 Constitution’s adoption, the continuous nature of the effects of sexual violence on an individual’s dignity make the provision applicable in this case. Here, the Court determined that the criminal acquittal would not serve as a bar to the action because of the differing standards of proof in a criminal and a civil trial. Importantly, the Court decided that “any educational or other institution in which teachers or other care givers commit acts of sexual abuse against those who have been placed under their care is vicariously liable for the wrongful acts of its employees.” The court noted that because children are particularly vulnerable, it is appropriate to impose strict liability on “those in charge of educational and other institutions . . . for abuses committed by those whom they have placed in charge of vulnerable groups such as minors in educational institutions” and held the four named plaintiffs—the teacher, the school, the teachers service commission, and the state—jointly and severally liable for damages of KSH two million for W.J. and KSH three million for L.N.

Midwa v. Midwa Court of Appeal of Kenya at Nairobi (2000)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

A woman was being divorced by her husband on the grounds that her testing HIV-positive endangered his life. Although her salary contributed to the mortgage payments for the house, the High Court ordered that she be consigned to the servants’ quarters and denied custody of her children, pending the hearing for her husband’s petition for divorce. She sought a stay of execution of the High Court’s order in her application. The Court of Appeal noted that it is trite law that children be placed with their mother unless there were good reasons not to do so. It also ruled that it was inconceivable that a woman be turned out of a house for which she is a 50% holder. The Court decided in favor of the application and granted a stay of execution.

C.K. & 11 Others v. Commissioner of Police High Court of Kenya at Meru (2013)

Gender discrimination, International law, Statutory rape or defilement

The petitioners are eleven minors and the non-governmental organization that shelters, educates, and cares for the eleven minors. Each child claims to have been subjected to child abuse and defilement in Meru County, where police "neglected...or otherwise failed" to investigate or protect the children in any way.  The High Court of Kenya held that the police have a duty to investigate allegations of sexual abuse made by female complainants, stating that “by failing to enforce existing defilement laws, the police have contributed to the development of a culture of tolerance for pervasive sexual violence against girl children and impunity.”

In Re Estate of Lerionka Ole Ntutu (Deceased) High Court of Kenya at Nairobi (Family Division) (2008)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Property and inheritance rights

The sons of Lerionka Ole Ntutu filed to prevent Ntutu’s married daughters from receiving their inheritance of his estate Section 82(4) (b) of the Kenyan Constitution. Under Kikuyu customary law, only unmarried daughters were allowed an inheritance. The presiding judge held that this claim was illegitimate, stating that the law cannot deprive a person of their rights only on the basis of sex and marital status. The judge followed the precedent set by the ruling in Rono v. Rono, Kenya Court of Appeal, 2005, in circumscribing customary law to prevent violations of justice, morality, and other written law. This case marked another important step in upholding women’s rights and human rights law over harmful customary practices towards women.

Suleiman v. Republic High Court of Kenya at Machakos (2004)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The appellant was charged with rape and defilement and alternatively with indecent assault for having carnal knowledge of the complainants under the guise of treatment as an herbalist/witch doctor.  He was convicted of indecent assault and sentenced to four years imprisonment and hard labor. He appealed the conviction on grounds of insufficient evidence and undue harshness of the sentence. The Court held that a rape conviction requires penetration and lack of consent on the part of the victim; defilement only requires penetration but not lack of consent.  Evidence of penetration can be inferred from sexually transmitted infections; medical examinations are not required to sustain a conviction.  Appellant's defense that he was framed was dismissed as it was improbable that the complainants would subject themselves to rape to avoid paying him.

Ali v. Republic Court of Appeal of Kenya at Mombasa (2006)

Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was charged with rape and alternatively with indecent assault. He was acquitted of rape but convicted of indecent assault and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with hard labor. The complainant is a local brewer of an illicit beverage called "changaa," which she was arrested for on November 12, 2002. She offered a bribe to the arresting officers, but could not pay the price they demanded (5,000 KSH). At the police station, the officers accepted the 1,000 KSH bribe she had offered earlier and released her to get another 4,000 KSH to exchange for the five liters of changaa she was arrested for possessing. The police officers sent her home with the appellant, who threatened her with a knife and raped her. The trial court found the complainant credible and very honest, but acquitted the accused on the rape charge because sexual offenses require corroboration. In this case, the magistrate judge stated that the complainant's testimony needed to be corroborated with medical evidence or by the police officers who released the complainant with the appellant. However, this was an error of law, as the superior court and Court of Appeal both stated in their decisions on the accused's appeals. The Court upheld the conviction on the ground that while sexual offenses usually require corroboration of the complainant's testimony, in cases where the judge is satisfied of the complainant's veracity or where the complainant's testimony can be corroborated with circumstantial evidence, a conviction can be made. The Court of Appeal added that, in its view, the appellant's acquittal on the charge of rape was incorrect.

Mulundi v. Republic Court of Appeal of Kenya at Machakos (2005)

Gender violence in conflict, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The appellant was convicted of defilement of a girl under the age of 14 years and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment with ten strokes of the cane.  The appellant appealed his conviction and the sentence as being excessive for a first offense. The Court dismissed the appeal of the conviction as the complainant identified the appellant and medical evidence is no longer necessary to convict an accused if the evidence was sufficiently cogent.  The "defilement" conviction was substituted with rape and the appellant was sentenced to ten years imprisonment.  

Murunga v. Republic Court of Appeal of Kenya at Nakuru (2008)

Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was charged and convicted of three counts of robbery with violence and one count of rape, with the charge of rape stating that the appellant "jointly with another not before the court" had carnal knowledge of the complainant. The trial court sentenced him to death for robbery with violence, which is a capital offense.  He appealed on the grounds that the rape charge was defective and that the police violated his constitutional rights because they held him for 24 days without bringing him to court.  The High Court dismissed his first appeal. However, hearing his second appeal, the Court of Appeal held that multiple men cannot jointly commit the offense of rape against one woman, so the offenders cannot be charged jointly.  The Court quashed the appellant's conviction for rape because each offender should have been charged on a separate individual count of rape.  The Court also quashed the robbery with violence conviction and sentence because the Constitution (sec. 72(3)) requires police to bring detainees accused of a capital offense to court within 14 days, but in this case police improperly held the appellant for 24 days without cause before bringing him to court.  The Court dismissed the state counsel's arguments that the length of the appellant's detention was a moot issue because he failed to raise it in earlier proceedings.  The Court stated that it is the responsibility of the prosecuting authorities to justify any delay and a judge's duty to raise issues of unlawful detention if the defendant does not.

Kamau v. Republic High Court of Kenya at Nakuru (2004)

Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was convicted of rape and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment with hard labor and six strokes of a cane.  The complainant testified that on the day of the incident, she met the appellant at a bar and agreed to spend the night with him for a sum of money. The appellant took her to a house where he and two colleagues raped the complainant all night in turns.  The appellant testified at trial that they had an "arrangement" with the complainant and did not rape her.  The complainant testified that she had withdrawn her consent before intercourse with the appellant and his co-perpetrators.  The morning after, the complainant escaped the house to report the rapes to the police and received treatment for her injuries at a hospital.  Ruling on the appeal, the High Court found that that the complainant withdrew her initial consent before the sexual act and that the appellant is guilty of rape.  The Court also reduced the sentence to six years imprisonment and set aside the corporal punishment, which was outlawed by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2003.  

Chepkwony v. Republic High Court of Kenya at Nakuru (2006)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The appellant was convicted of defilement for having sexual intercourse with the complainant, who was 12 years old at the time.  The trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment.  He appealed, arguing that the prosecution did not satisfy its burden of proofs, that there was no evidence of violent force, that the complainant was his girlfriend, and that she consented.  The prosecution presented evidence of the complainant's physical injuries and the appellant's HIV-positive status.  The Court dismissed the appeal because sex with any girl younger than 16 years old is unlawful regardless of consent, and the appellant had not raised the defense that he had a reasonable belief that the girl was above the age of consent.  The Court rejected appellant's plea for special consideration because of his alleged HIV status.  Instead, the Court cited the appellant's decision to expose a 12-year-old child to HIV/AIDS in its decision to uphold the life sentence.

Ochieng v. Republic High Court of Kenya of Kisii (2008)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The appellant was charged and convicted of defilement and indecent assault of a six-year-old girl.  He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on the first count and five years imprisonment for the second.  He appealed on the grounds of insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction and an excessive sentence. The Court affirmed the convictions because the six-year-old complainant described the incident in detail, the medical evidence was corroborative, and the appellant's abrupt and unexplained disappearance after the incident was also properly considered corroborative evidence.  The Court also held that the sentences were not excessive. 

Wafula v. Republic High Court of Kenya at Bungoma (2005)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The appellant was charged and convicted of raping the complainant, a girl of 15 years, with his friend.  The appellant appealed on four grounds: (1) that the complainant was so young that the court needed to have first satisfied itself that the complainant possessed sufficient intelligence to justify the reception of her evidence, (2) that the court convicted him solely based on the testimony of one witness, (3) that the sentence was manifestly harsh and unfair, and (4) that the prosecution in this case failed to adhere to the requirement that a charge of rape must contain the words "unlawful" and "without consent". The Court dismissed the first three grounds, stating that 15 years did not make the complainant too young to give uncorroborated evidence, as would otherwise be required in sexual offenses.  However, the Court quashed the conviction because the rape charge did not contain the words "unlawful" and "without consent," which are necessary to any charge of rape.

Achoki v. Republic Court of Appeal of Kenya at Kisumu (2011)

Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was charged with three criminal violations in connection with his and his coconspirators' robbery of the complainant and corresponding violence: (1) aggravated robbery with violence, (2) rape of the complainant's niece during the robbery, and (3) possession of suspected stolen property.  The trial court found the appellant guilty on all counts, but the first count was reduced to simple robbery.  The trial court sentenced him to ten years imprisonment for robbery, ten years imprisonment for rape, and 12 months for handling suspected stole goods, to be served concurrently. Without citing a specific reason for reducing the aggravated robbery with violence charge, the trial magistrate noted that the complainant testified that she was not injured in the robbery.  The appellant first appealed to the High Court, which found the appeal had no merit and that the appellant was guilty of aggravated robbery with violence.  The High Court vacated the conviction and 10-year sentence for simple robbery and imposed the death sentence for robbery with violence.  In this appeal to the Court of Appeal (Kisumu), the appellant raised four concerns: (1) whether he was improperly identified as the robber and rapist because the attack took place at night when it was dark, (2) whether the first appellate court properly re-evaluated the evidence, (3) whether the High Court's substitution of simple robbery with aggravated robbery with violence was proper, and (4) whether the State was required to file a cross-appeal to entitle the High Court to substitute the simple robbery conviction with aggravated robbery with violence.  The High Court documents show that the appellant was warned more than once and that at the earliest opportunity the State Counsel would seek to increase the sentence to capital robbery, but the appellant decided to proceed with the appeal.  Quoting its precedent, the lower courts' records, and the Criminal Procedure Code Sec. 354, the Court of Appeal rejected all aspects of the appeal and upheld the death sentence for robbery with violence.

Mwaura v. Republic Court of Appeal of Kenya at Nakuru (2007)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The accused was charged with defilement of a girl under the age of 14 years, and was convicted and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.  He appealed for leniency on the grounds that he was remorseful, suffering from acute pneumonia and only 17 years of age at the time of the incident. The Court upheld the sentence finding that the sentence of 10 years for defilement of a girl and 5 years for indecent assault is not excessive and no circumstances existed to justify mitigating the sentence.

Andrew Manunzyu Musyoka (Deceased) High Court of Kenya at Machakos (2005)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Property and inheritance rights

The applicants are the sons and wife of the deceased and are seeking to apply the Kamba customary law that would not permit a daughter to inherit her father's estate if she is married.  The Court held that the Kamba customary law is discriminatory insofar as it seeks to prevent a married daughter from inheriting her father's estate under the Succession Act.  It specifically noted that although the Kenyan constitution specifically provides for customary law to take precedence over the Constitution in matters dealing with property inheritance after death and other personal issues, Kenya is also obligated to end discriminatory practices under CEDAW and the UDHR. 

Nandi v. Bobo High Court of Kenya at Nairobi (Nairobi Law Courts) (2006)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Sexual violence and rape

The petitioner-wife sought the dissolution of her marriage on the grounds of cruelty and adultery because the respondent assaulted her, locked her out of their matrimonial home, and forced her to have sex with him while he was drunk. The Court found that the petitioner's testimony was believable and established cruelty that endangered her life and health.  The Court therefore dissolved the marriage.  (Kenya domestic law does not explicitly recognize marital rape.)