Bringing an International Human Rights Perspective to the “160 Girls” Litigation

Partner Organizations: Equality Effect (Canada); The Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA)(Kenya); Ripples International Women’s Shelter (Kenya)

Students: Meghan Lindo, Sylvie McCallum-Rougerie, Morgan Sim

The Equality Effect and its Kenyan partners (FIDA and Ripples) are initiating test case litigation in Kenya based on the constitutional guarantee of equality to secure legal remedies ordering the state to enforce existing laws in Kenya to protect girls from sexual violence and to hold rapists accountable. Through this project, IHRP students will explore means by which to bring an international human rights law perspective to this litigation. The project will mobilize the law to secure legal protection from defilement/rape for girls in Kenya.

In Kenya, a woman or girl is raped every 30 minutes. Girls are raped by family members and men in their own communities. Many of the girls are orphans whose parents have died of AIDS. They are vulnerable to abuse from extended family members and from strangers. Because many men believe that sex with a virgin – even a young child - is a cure for HIV/AIDS, these girls are doubly vulnerable.

In eastern Kenya, 160 girls, all victims of rape, are determined to seek justice.  The “160 Girls” project is a legal initiative that aims to achieve justice and protect against rape for all girls in Kenya. The project will mobilize the law to secure concrete change for women and girls who currently experience some of the most appalling forms of violence in the world today. If the State enforces its laws, girls will be protected from rape. There will be increased safety and security for girls and more state accountability for the enforcement of existing laws intended to protect women and girls.

This year's clinic students produced legal memos on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the due diligence standard in international law, and conducted a detailed analysis of comparative police standards across common law jurisdictions.

Read about IHRP intern and clinic student, Meghan Lindo's experiences in Kenya while working on the 160 Girls Project in UofT Magazine.  Read about Sylvie McCallum Rougerie's experiences preparing for test case litigation in Kenya here.

*UPDATE* A landmark decision in the "160 Girls" litigation was issued in May 2013 by the High Court of Kenya, which ordered the police to enforce Kenya's rape laws by taking action against alleged perpetrators. Read the decision here.

As reported by The Globe and Mail: by failing to act on the rape cases, the police had created a "climate of impunity," the court said in its ruling, seven months after the court challenge began.

Because of this impunity, "the perpetrators know they can commit crimes against innocent children without fear of being apprehended and prosecuted," the court said.

This makes the police "directly responsible" for the physical and psychological damage suffered by the rape victims, the court ruled.