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160 Girls: Kenyan government taken to court on behalf of 160 Kenyan girls

Although Africa declares women and men equal in its constitution and outlaws rape in its legal code, arrests are rarely made.

Fiona Sampson, together with Mercy Chidi and many African lawyers, are taking the Kenyan government to court on behalf of 160 Kenyan girls aged three to 17 who were raped. Sampson is a Toronto lawyer who runs the Equality Effect, a non-profit organisation that uses international human rights laws to free women, and Chidi runs a shelter in Meru, Kenya for young rape victims, most of who are raped by men they know, often their fathers and grandfathers.

Although Africa declares women and men equal in its constitution and outlaws rape in its legal code, arrests are rarely made. Sampson and Chidi argue that the Kenyan government failed to enforce its own laws and has therefore violated the constitutional rights of these girls.

The Constitutional claim for the “160 Girls” litigation was filed on 11 October 2012 (International Day of the Girl Child) and written legal and oral arguments have been prepared, as well as the arguments for their partner, FIDA Kenya (the Federation of Women Lawyers, Kenya). As an honorary legal adviser, Cherie Booth QC helped on the international law aspects. Once the oral argument has been heard on 30 April, a decision is expected approximately two to six months on.

Sally Armstrong, a Canadian journalist who has fought for women’s rights for 25 years, featured the “160 Girls” case in her new book, The Ascent of Women, which chronicles the courage and difficulties being undertaken by women and girls around the world.