With the Sexual Offences Act in place many people have come out to report cases of abuse and many sexual offenders have been prosecuted but despite such progress, there are claims of a leeway in the Act.
Jane Serwanga, senior legal counsel at FIDA-Kenya held that according to the Act, if one gives false information in a sexual offence case, that person is liable to the same imprisonment the offender was subjected to. “This is inherently a challenge to the realization of what was to be achieved by the Act,” said Serwanga.
She added that with this section in place, it will deter people from coming forward to report cases because they feel perhaps if they are found to give false information from one reason or another then they will face a very harsh sentence.
“In law, there are other pieces of legislations like the penal code which takes care of situations where a person has given false information. Having two laws that look upon the same mischief is something that needs to be looked into,” held FIDA’s legal counsel.
She further pointed out that there are some delays in the administration of justice and this is because the magisterial docket that handles the sexual offences cases also handles other cases. “The magistrates are not in a position to give so much priority to the sexual offences cases as it should be given. This is also seen in the criminal justice system which should be looked upon in cases concerning the sexual violence,” said Serwanga.
Currently the Sexual Offences Act allows use of DNA data bank as part of proof of sexual abuse but in the country very few hospitals offer the services.
“The few health facilities that offer DNA services have no data bank for this information as from when it occurred so as to be used by the legal system,” she said. “More often when the samples are taken from the survivors of the sexual violence, the victims have to be transported from one place to another that is from rural to urban.”
Despite the little leeway the Act leaves, Serwanga held that the Act has given the victims of sexual violence justice but urged the Government and non governmental organizations to create more awareness of the act among professions who work in its realm so as they could be effective use of the Act.