Rape in the Courts of Gusiiland, Kenya, 1940s–1960s

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Cambridge University Press

This article examines the history of rape prosecutions in the African courts of Gusiiland, Kenya, from the 1940s through the first years of independence. Drawing on transcripts from African courts, it demonstrates that Gusii court elders were quite sympathetic to women who lodged rape claims. Elders handed down stiff punishments to rapists, were willing to entertain a wide definition of “indecent assault,” and did not require the extensive evidence of rape so commonly demanded by judges in Western courts (and in British courts in Kenya). Perhaps most surprisingly, men who admitted to having had sex but claimed it had been consensual were forced to prove their claims. This article advances both the historical study of rape in Africa and suggests that we reassess—or at least reserve judgment—on the nature of sexual violence in the non-West.

Shadle, Brett L. "Rape in the Courts of Gusiiland, Kenya, 1940s–1960s," African Studies Review, Volume 51, Number 2, September 2008, pp. 27-50