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Kenyan Law on Sex Abuse Draws Protests

June 2, 2006

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ A new law aimed at curbing increasing sex abuse in Kenya drew protest Thursday for failing to criminalize marital rape while penalizing false rape reports.

The law _ which triggered months of raucous debate that included a walkout by female legislators _ marked the first comprehensive review of sexual offense legislation that was introduced by British colonial rulers in the 1930s.

The measure approved Wednesday included provisions to punish those found guilty of child prostitution and sex tourism and trafficking.

But the approved bill disappointed many who had hoped for stronger legislation to combat sex abuse against women.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Kara said a provision that penalizes false allegations of rape would discourage victims from reporting the offense, The Standard newspaper reported Thursday.

Assistant Minister for Basic Education Beth Mug said some lawmakers changed the spirit of the measure before it became law, according to the paper.

Some legislators were unsuccessful in adding a provision to alter Kenya’s penal code, which does not recognize marital rape as a criminal offense.

Human rights groups say that rape has become so common in Kenya that billboards warn against ``human beasts.″ Kenyan and foreign aid agencies said in a report last year that rape, incest and indecent assault had increased fourfold in the country over the past four years.

Poverty, the lack of alternative housing options and the attitude that woman are subordinate to men put women at particular risk of violence in this East African nation.

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