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Girls & Women

A Kenyan Court Rejected a Plea to Make Divorce More Equitable for Women

By Kevin Mwanza

NAIROBI, May 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Kenyan court on Monday rejected a plea for a change to the laws on how property should be split in divorce cases, a ruling activists said was a blow for women's rights in the country.

Kenya's High Court dismissed a 2016 petition from the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA), an advocacy group that had argued the Marriage Properties Act was unconstitutional because it entitled each partner only to what they contributed.

The constitution states that married couples are entitled to equal rights and the group argued that the law unfairly impacted women, who were more likely to suffer financially from a marriage break-up.

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In its ruling the court said that changing the law would "open the door for a party to get into marriage and walk out of it in the event of divorce with more than they deserve."

In response, FIDA head Josephine Mong'are said it was a "sad day for Kenyans."

"Every year millions of women in Kenya still find themselves fighting to hold onto their property after a divorce or the death of their husband," she said in a statement.

Less than 7% of title deeds are held by women alone or jointly with men in Kenya, according to a 2014 survey by the United Nations Conference on Trade.

Land is usually passed on to sons, making it hard for women to secure rights except through their husbands. Women and their children are often evicted if the husband dies or they divorce.

Less than 2% of title deeds issued in Kenya since 2013 went to women, according to the Kenya Land Alliance, an advocacy network.

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(Reporting by Kevin Mwanza, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)