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Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School

Kenyan Constitution

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Photo: Daily Nation

The Avon Global Center and International Human Rights Clinic provided research support to Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) in preparing for and managing the roll-out of the Kenya Judicial Symposium and Trial Advocacy Training Program, which took place in August 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya.  The symposium and training program focused on the trial of urban gender-based violence cases in Kenya.   The program delivers skills training in two phases: first a symposium for  approximately 40 Kenyan judges, followed in week two by a training that consists of conducting an LWOB-customized mock trial from start to finish for approximately 65 prosecutors, police prosecutors, defense counsel, and public interest lawyers. Several U.S. federal judges and up to 25 practicing senior trial attorneys from the U.S. and UK participated in the pgram as faculty.  Avon Global Center Executive Director Sara Lulo, who is an experienced in-country trial advocacy program manager for LWOB, managed the in-country roll out of this year’s Kenya program—LWOB’s fourth successive training in Kenya on the subject of gender violence.  

One of the key challenges for domestic violence survivors in Kenya and elsewhere is economic reliance on an abusive partner, a situation that is often exacerbated by customary law and practices.  Kenya’s Constitution adopted in August 2010 makes significant progress towards ensuring gender equality. While the new Constitution, together with the country’s relatively new 2006 Sexual Offences Act, represents a positive step towards criminalizing gender violence, women  continue to find themselves victimized in appalling numbers.  An advanced International Human Rights Clinic student, under the supervision of Avon Global Center faculty and staff, prepared a memorandum identifying discriminatory aspects of Kenya’s inheritance laws and practices that includes suggested approaches  to help bring those laws and practices into compliance with the gender equality mandates of the new Constitution.   The  Center’s research assisted LWOB’s training faculty in incorporating into the curriculum practical and meaningful ways that the new Constitution can be invoked and applied to protect the rights of women in the courtroom—a key component to advancing actual physical and economic security for Kenyan women.