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Constitutional reform

Last edited: December 20, 2011

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Constitutions should enshrine and guarantee women’s human rights without exception. In particular, constitutions should:

  • Prohibit discrimination based on sex.
  • Guarantee equal rights and legal protection to both women and men.
  • Guarantee equal rights and responsibilities between women and men in marriage including consensual unions, civil marriages, and customary marriages.
  • Guarantee a woman’s right to own, administer, and control property and land.
  • Provide equal rights to women and men in inheritance and succession.
  • Specify that conflicts between formal and customary laws are to be resolved in a manner that guarantees equality and non-discrimination.
  • Exclude provisions that allow for exceptions that discriminate on the basis of gender, such as mandatory age of marriage set lower for females than for males, inheritance laws which favor male heirs, citizenship regulations which place a child’s citizenship only with the country of the child’s father and not the mother, and other customary or traditional practices which are not codified in law, such as women being forced to give up their land upon the death of a husband.


Kenya – New Constitution a Chance for Significant Gains for Women

Kenya passed a new constitution in August 2010. The new document contains numerous provisions related to the rights of women, and civil society groups in Kenya are making a major effort to ensure that these provisions are implemented effectively to secure gains for women. Violence against women is now explicitly a constitutional matter – Art. 27(3) explicitly demands equal treatment for women and men and Art. 29 states that every person has the right not to be subjected to any form of violence from public or private sources. Also, the changes made by the constitution relative to vetting the judiciary, the structure of the police, and the mandate for devolved government could have a substantial impact on the way that crimes of violence against women are addressed. In order to take advantage of this transitional moment, the organization CLICK (Centre for Legal Information and Communication in Kenya) is working closely with parliamentary committees, the constitutional implementation commission and other bodies focused on constitutional implementation to provide expert input into how the provisions of the new constitution are operationalized.

Source: Interview with Makoyo. Executive Director, CLICK.  2011.