Thursday, 30 August 2012

Employers firing pregnant women in Kenya may soon land in court

BY Jerry Otieno in Nairobi

FIDA logo
Employers firing pregnant women out of jobs in Kenya  will soon find themselves battling many court cases if the threats by Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) are anything to go by.

The Women lawyers said that most women have suffered job loss because of engaging in motherhood, which is a natural right.

Senior Programmes Officer of FIDA Ms Anne Ireri said that women have continued to be punished by employers due to pregnancy.

“Women do not enjoy equal access to property and resources- compounded by marriage. Employers have been punishing women for being pregnant and very soon we will be battling in the courts,” said the Women lawyer.

Speaking during the launch of strategic public interest litigation, the lawyers threatened the employers to brace up for legal battles in the corridors of justice.

The lawyers argue that Land tenure systems are dominated by patriarchal attitudes and approaches where women have continued to be dispossessed of their property when their spouses die.

This scenario, they said is rampant mostly in Western and Nyanza areas where widows are forced to be inherited and subsequently disposed of their spouse’s properties.
FIDA Kenya intends to file three high profile cases at the High Courts in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, Executive Director Grace Maingi has said.
The intention of the litigation is securing the gains made for women in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 through strategic impact litigation.
The cases will focus on Women labour rights with regards maternity related benefits and provision, women’s ownership of land under customary law as well the illegal practice of widow inheritance.
FIDA hopes that through the litigation, we will have increased rights awareness, enactment of gender responsive legislation and policies.

According to the Constitution women have secured several gains including provision of gender equity in elective representation, appointment in state and elective positions, property, fundamental freedoms, health, education, citizenship and marriage among others.

“We want to urge women to come out in their large numbers if they feel their fundamental rights have been violated by either the employer or any other member of the family. The oppression against women must stop,” added lawyers.

Article 22 of the Constitution stipulates the right to institute court proceedings claiming that a right or a fundamental freedom has been violated or infringed can be instituted by a wide class of persons including organisations such as FIDA.

The women lawyers are also aggrieved that gender stereotypes and attitudes still prevail in society and that most women do not enjoy fair labor practices.

They add that women have to bear the brunt of poverty citing legislation and policy has been discriminative towards them.

Raising awareness of the issues- reducing the over exciting over the cases especially during reporting and sustaining client commitment in public interest matters are some of the challenges the Women Lawyers body express.

Ireri said that they have had to endure difficulties in obtaining supporting documents adding that identifying suitable parties for the suit and security concerns around litigation of the cases that are very sensitive has been a major concern.

Ireri noted that gender responsive legislation and policies, ssustained advocacy and public dialogue issues would result in a progressive society.

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