Judy Thongori – Kenya

Linked with Displaced women tell of misery in the chaos.

Judy Thongori is the Chairperson of CREAW and heads the board that comprises of eight (8) members. Her goal is to work in development and legal initiatives that gear towards achieving an equitable society in which there is zero tolerance to Gender-Based Violence and respect for human rights. She has the experience of seventeen years of practice as a lawyer with six of those years in implementing programmes on women’s rights issues. Part of her work has involved provision of legal services to the under-privileged and taking on public interest litigation. She has been in the forefront in spreading legal awareness through public awareness, seminars, workshops and the media. She has also been proactive in lobbying for laws that are responsive to the needs of women. Judy is married to John Thongori and they have two children. (CREAW).

She says: “Kenya lacks an automatic domestication clause, which provides ways for ratifying and implementing international covenants and charters. Thus, international agreements such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and the Beijing Platform for Action remained undomesticated”. (full long text).

Read: Gender and Economic Growth in Kenya, 161 pdf-pages.


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Prostitution is illegal under Tanzanian law, and there is also a prohibition against brothels and defilement of children below age 14. The law similarly forbids child pornography and prostitution and considers any sexual act with a girl below the age of 18 to be rape, which is punishable by life imprisonment. However, enforcing these provisions is very difficult, because, although the law considers sex below the age of 18 to be rape, other provisions set the legal age for marriage at 15. The penalties for raping an adult woman are also very strict, with imprisonment ranging from a minimum of 30 years to a maximum of life. (Judy Thongori, in “The Proposed Amendments to the Laws on Rape and Defilement: Do the Proposed Amendments Fill the Gaps?,” 3 December 2003). In addition, the offender must pay the victim compensation for damages suffered as a result of the rape (ECPAT International Online Database, 24 April 2003).

ECPAT International, a network of organisations and individuals working together to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Judy has front line experience of providing legal services to poor women. She has acted in public interest litigation aimed at increasing their access to justice. A key aspect of her work has been to empower women and other marginalised sections of society through training and media campaigns. She trains to build capacity for self-representation through the justice systems, and on proactive advocacy for responsive laws and policies. She has worked with the judiciary and with Parliament on programmes to increase justice for women, and is currently a Visiting Justice for a women’s prison in Nairobi. (full text).

Matter: whether Sexual Harassment amounts to Sex Discrimination Under International Law and the Kenyan Constitution. Legal Expert Mr. Wachira Maina and National Lawyer Ms. Judy Thongori, September 2004.

… Penal code: It was not immediately clear how Mr Chomba had persuaded the woman that they were man and wife, when they were not. But an official of the Federation of International Women Lawyers, Judy Thongori, told the BBC that the long-standing law – Section 170 of the Penal Code – was clear. “Any person who wilfully and by fraud causes any woman who is not lawfully married to him to cohabit and have sexual intercourse with him in that belief is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment to 10 years,” she quoted the law as stating. Ms Thongori said the law had been rarely used because of ignorance. Police sources in Karatina, 130 km north of Nairobi, said Mr Chomba was arrested on Monday and asked to file a statement about his relationship with the complainant. He did so willingly only to be told that he had committed a felony, they said. Research has indicated that more than three quarters of Kenyan couples do not have marriage certificates. The majority of those who do are educated couples living in towns and cities. (full text).

Some women are resigned to having inferior property rights, and others even oppose the idea of women having equal property rights. Anna Adhiambo, a Luo woman from Kisumu, said, “I didn’t inherit from my parents because when parents die, daughters do not get anything. Boys inherit, but girls do not…. This started much earlier. No one bothers to question it. We’re born into it.” This is true even for her children: “As much as I want to see change, it will be difficult. If I die, I know my son won’t share with my daughters.”144 A women’s rights lawyer said an elderly woman recently told her, “If we give land to a woman… she will be arrogant and won’t serve her man.” (Human Rights Watch interview with Judy Thongori, then deputy head of litigation, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Kenya), Nairobi, October 16, 2002.). An NGO representative attributes this attitude to socialization: Very few women have property registered in their name. Why? Patriarchy. The message is always reinforced that women can’t own property. Even some women believe this. Women are socialized in many ways to think that this is the domain of men…. Even well educated women fall in the same trap. (full text).

The Executive Director of COVAW, Ms Milly Odhiambo, and Ms Judy Thongori, the chairperson for CREAW and also a senior official of the Kenya chapter of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), are particularly enraged. “The lead given by the honourable judge is erroneous and a miscarriage of justice. What if the man who rapes you does so with the use of a condom?” queries Thongori. “Or must we try the near impossible task of grabbing the gadget from whoever, after the ordeal, and present it with full contents to relevant authorities?” poses Odhiambo sarcastically. The lobby groups accuse the judge of shifting legal goal posts and creating unnecessary burden of proof. “The law as we know it, only requires a victim of rape to prove unlawful carnal knowledge and positively identify the attacker. Once the above ingredients are established, it is upon the attacker to provide an alibi or prove that he was not the one,” explains Thongori … (full long text, June 14, 2003).

Find her and her publications on ; on ; on Index Kenya; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search.

Book: Women’s equal rights to land, housing and property are recognized in international law and are translated into national law by an increasing number of governments. However, the implementation of these rights into reality on the ground remains an enormous challenge. This book examines the role that women’s organizations in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have played in affecting recent law reforms, and provides a detailed analysis of national legislation and policies on land, housing and inheritance in these three countries. It also describes mechanisms used by civil society organizations and paralegal networks to help implement women’s equal rights at community level. A historical background of the region and an overview of international human rights instruments are included. The study concludes with specific recommendations, which could help translate women’s rights to reality. (UN habitat).


Accelerating Reforms to Improve the Commercial Legal Frame and Remove Administrative and Regulatory Barriers to Investment Based on the Fact-Finding Mission by Foreign Investment Advisory Service (FIAS), World Bank Group, 20 pages;

Why the Female ‘Cut’ Refuses to Go Away;
Atlas of Global Development: A Visual Guide to the World’s Greatest Challenges, by World Bank.

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