Lawyers from Nyambene region in Meru County want the state to review the law on sexual offences act to give courts discretion to sentence accused persons depending on circumstances.
Addressing the media, the lawyers’ Chairman in the region Hosea Mutembei said the law, as it stands, was not fair to sexual offences suspects as compared to murder suspects whose punishments were equivalent, which is life sentence.
He said a majority of Kenyan courts including those in the Nyambene region were acting under a lot of pressure from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and publicity from the media to convict the suspects.
“This pressure may compel the court to overlook minimal loopholes which give the accused person benefit of the doubt in other criminal matters. It may therefore be difficult to see these courts acquitting one charged with a sexual offence,” said Mr Mutembei.
He said in some of these cases, it may be difficult for an accused person to convince a presiding officer who is a woman since they take it that a fellow woman has been offended and others who have young girls getting the pain upon themselves.
“It is funny that even in a falsehood scenario, it may be difficult for the accused person to salvage himself following the systems fighting against him,” said Mutembei.
Mutembei said people perceive lawyers representing sexual offences suspects as insensitive forgetting that this is a person suspected of an offence and a good number of them are innocent.
“I have basic knowledge of an area like Nyambene where many men are illiterate and don’t understand the minimum age of a girl to give sexual consent.
They believe once a girl consents, it is okay since it is not rape. Many of these end up in marriage just because the girl has consented,” he said.
The lawyers said there was the need for civic education from the NGOs, Media, Chiefs and other administrators on sexual offences act instead of flocking into the courtrooms when the damage has already been done.
They added that there was also a need for the state to provide free legal services for those charged with sexual offences just like they do to murder suspects since the two carry the same sentence.
By Dickson Mwiti