Kenyan Woman Fights to Criminalize Wife-Beating

Defying Maasai tradition that says women are property and can be beaten, Agnes Siyiankoi is enlisting the help of Nairobi lawyers to change Kenya’s constitution and outlaw wife-beating.

Siyiankoi’s brother, a lawyer, lodged a High Court application seeking the equivalent of $150 in damages for Agnes Siyiankoi’s abuse by her husband. He also asked that wife-beating be declared unconstitutional. Sinyianko lives with her brother and three of her four children in Nairobi, where she has accused her husband in court of repeated assault over 13 years. She said the practice of polygamy caused him to beat her constantly.

Women lawyers have recommended several reforms to Kenya’s attorney general, including outlawing wife-beating and marital rape. They want to criminalize wifebeating because, even when a man beats his wife to death, he is not prosecuted. Millie Odhiambo of the International Federation of Women Lawyers reports that “…almost every tribe in Kenya practices wife-beating.”


CNN - October 13, 1997

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