Women’s access to justice still remains a mirage due to institutional mechanisms, norms and patriarchal practices.
Senior Research Associate at the Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) Muthoka Mutie said class, financial constraints and long distances to courts continues to deny women access to justice.
He said besides being unable to present themselves in court, most women are unable to hire lawyers.
“Access to justice for women is limited and this is a human rights issue when justice sector institutions are not responsive to legally empowering the rights of women through the interpretation of laws,” he said.
Mutie noted that despite the extensive civil law in Kenya today and the impact of its judicial creation and administration, women are too often bystanders in litigation.
He observed that capitalist economics and lower socio-economic standing have an adverse effect on the abuse of rights and the ability of the victimised to access justice in courtrooms.
Mutie spoke in Nakuru on Saturday during a stakeholders’ forum on Access to Justice and Democracy organised by Egerton University’s Faculty of Law Legal Aid Project (FOLLAP).
He was accompanied by FOLLAP’s Project Lead and Dean Faculty of Law at Egerton University, Dr. Ruth Aura.
Mutie called for proper interpretation of the law to help women advance their rights.
He blamed women’s exclusion in judicial process to authorities' failure to pay attention to the interlocking vectors of oppression that face women daily.
“An intersectional understanding of women's interlocking challenges is key to unlocking and dismantling the myriad obstacles that obstruct women’s quest for justice,” he said.
Mutie urged scholars to examine the challenges women face either as actors or subjects within courtrooms to fully understand the impact of that lack of access to justice visits upon women.
He also blamed religious and cultural practices which are mostly used in determining women’s access to justice.
Mutie observed that women would be victimised where judges follow the strict adherence of the law with little room for judicial imagination and creativity in the interpretation of laws given that most customary and religious laws do not favour them.
"Religion has played a central role in determining the laws that exist in these countries,” he said.
He observed that religion and culture create a state of multiple jeopardies when combined with other interlocking challenges to limit access to justice for women.
SOURCE: The Star