Tag Archives: rape culture

#MyDressMyChoice : SOME PUBLIC PERSONALITIES AND MEDIA STAY FAILING WOMEN

The past two weeks have really been dark in Kenya. A woman was stripped naked by a gang of matatu touts because they claim she was dressed “indecently.” She was wearing a skirt and a tank top. Someone recorded it and put it online. Another video circulated after that of yet another lady who was stripped naked by another gang of men. They also claimed she was dressed “indecently.” She was wearing pants and a tank top. Just this past Monday, another lady was stripped naked. The gang of men who did it claimed she was dressed “indecently.” One of them used social media to brag about his active participation in violating the woman. This is what our country has come to. This is the kind of hostile society that women have to live in.

Kenyan women have been using #MyDressMyChoice to not only decry these acts but also express their outrage, share their personal experiences, demand better treatment and advocate for the upholding of women’s rights. From this hashtag, women organized a protest that was held this past Monday.

Of course, as with anything that involves women, you know the foot soldiers of patriarchy where ready to march in and blame these violent acts on women.  Because obviously the sole reason that women are violated is women themselves. It has absolutely nothing to do with men and the entitlement they feel towards women. Nothing. Yes, that is the chewed up grass that such people are trying to sell us, and expecting us not to recognize it for the bullshit that it is.

A media personality wrote a blog stating that “…”My Dress, My Choice” Movement, though with it’s heart in the right place, will only be an excuse for some girls to dress skimpily…” Ha…because the only thing that women want is to “dress skimpily.” Never mind that #MyDressMyChoice is about more than just dressing. It’s about fighting for our rights. It’s about demanding the respect that should be accorded to us regardless of our outward appearance. It’s about upholding our presence in this world as human beings and not objects. It’s about putting an end to violence against women. But these are all minor details to this particular media personality.  Plus they don’t quite fit well into her “be a good girl, show self-value by covering up and you won’t be attacked” narrative.

She then claimed that protesting is the wrong approach. She added, “Don’t fix a wrong with a “wrong” & by that I mean taking to the streets will not change much, just today these street hooligans are at it again! the strike could just make these foolish men fight even more.” Fighting for our rights to JUST BE and walk around without fear is apparently wrong. Protesting is an important step in the change that we all want to see. But hey, why should we protest when we can just stay silent and hope that our silence will shield us from assault? That has clearly worked out well for us in the past.

Another personality tweeted, “…scan your environment and dress accordingly.” Basically, you are to blame if anything happens to you and the perpetrators use the way you are dressed as an excuse. Why didn’t you scan your environment? Why didn’t you dress according to it? Ha…you better get familiar with the handbook on dress as per your environment, woman! Better yet, consult the men in your environment about what you should wear.  The truth is, a woman might scan her environment, and decide to wear jeans and a t shirt to be safe, and still get stripped because they will say “her jeans were too tight,” or “she was enticing us with her walk.”

A gospel artiste wrote, “However, am also against women walking around half naked. Let’s not argue with facts well known to us… we are Africans, where nakedness is shameful.” What is half naked? Is it when our legs can be seen? Or our knees? Or our arms? Maybe our shoulders? She doesn’t clearly define what it is. That second statement is funny in the ignorance-is-real type of way. “…we are Africans, where nakedness is shameful,” is a fact!? How so, when there is numerous evidence, pictorial and otherwise, showing that our African ancestors did in fact walk around in various states of nakedness!? They really must have been steeped in shame then, huh!? Good thing the missionaries and colonialists threw some clothes on them and reminded them that as Africans, nakedness is shameful.

She then adds, ” No matter how much we may argue about this, exposing your body is not right,” and “If all of us women dress in a respectful manner, chances of being stripped are very very low.” Exposing your body is wrong!? According to who? What counts as exposing? Showing your toes? Or maybe palms? What is a “respectful manner” of dress? Who determines this? So our chances of being stripped are diminished based on how we “dress in a respectful manner”? Oh wow…how come we didn’t think of this before? Obviously all that women need to do is “dress in a respectful manner” and all the violence we face will magically disappear.  Of course she had to end her comments with #YourDressYourCharacter. You hear that all you dress-in-a-disrespectful-manner types!? Your character is defined by nothing else but your choice of dress. Ah ah…please spare us.

It really is a problem when your opinion puts others in danger. The above personalities say they are against the stripping of women. However, they proceed, in the same breath, to make statements that uphold the very same systems that have for years harassed, assaulted, violated, trampled upon and silenced women. To say that women should dress “decently,” “in a respectful manner,” “according to their environment” is to say that we, women, call the violence upon ourselves. It is to tell women that we have no right to personal choice. It is telling us that our choices must be tweaked and reworked until men find them acceptable. It is to say that our bodies do not belong to us and therefore we have no agency over them. It is to shift the blame from men, where it belongs, and place it squarely on  women. It is to shame and blame the victims.  It is to explain away the assault. It is to preserve rape culture. It is to deny what the stripping really is about – power, control and patriarchy.

The media also seems to be invested in this blame game.  K24,  hosted Robert Alai, a person who tweeted that he would strip or sponsor the stripping of anyone dressed “indecently,” on a panel to discuss dress code. Really!? Because there is a discussion to be had about this? Because his tweets about endorsing violence against women weren’t harmful enough? Because his views and those of people like him need to be amplified on a national stage? K24, to host such a person and air his views is basically you saying that you in one way or the other support them.

Not to be left behind, Nation FM had a discussion on one of their shows. The question, “Is it right to undress a person in public for dressing “indecently”?” They had a number for people to call and chime in. Seriously, that this is even a question is a problem. Is there really a debate to be had over this? I know media houses are all for the “two sides to every story” but when it comes to violence against women there are no two sides about it. It’s not debatable. You can’t rationalize violence against women. The choice of pictures that Nation FM chose to use in reporting the protest on Monday was also quite telling of their stance on the matter.

The media houses are clearly more interested in ratings than using their platforms to advocate for an end to violence against women. What do they care though? As long as they get their paycheck at the end of the day.

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Kenyan Politicians = Masters of Distraction

I have become convinced that Kenyan politicians are masters of distraction. There must be a special school that they go to in the middle of the night to hone their distraction skills. Seriously, how else can we explain how they intently focus on anything and everything other than the important issues?

Take for example, Aden Duale, the majority leader in the National Assembly. He recently said that homosexuality is a “Western Agenda.” He further stated that it is a problem in Kenya on the same scale as terrorism and should be handled the same way. Where do we begin with this politician’s “logic”!? How is homosexuality a Western Agenda? Mr. Duale, please tell us, what would the West be hoping to achieve/gain from promoting homosexuality? You are after all suggesting that they are promoting it or coercing people into it. To what end though!? Equating homosexuality to terrorism is simply compound foolishness. What consenting adults do really bothers you that much!? Why!?

Instead of tackling insecurity and other developmental issues in the country our politicians are busy discussing ways in which they can police the citizenry’s sexuality. The Westgate Attack, the Likoni Church Attack, the spate of carjackings and violent theft have all been happening under their noses. They are too busy sticking their noses in people’s sexual spaces to take action about such pressing issues though. We see your shady tactics, politicians. Get people talking about homosexuality so they won’t notice your incompetence and reluctant leadership huh!?

As a country, we are well-versed in the accept and move on school of thought. Now, can we accept that homosexuality is not a Western agenda, it is not terrorism and it is not a social evil? Ok…yes? Great! That’s how people are born. You cannot force or will or pray a certain sexual orientation onto a person. People are who they are. Just as you live your truth daily then let others do the same. Please, let’s move on from this fixation with outlawing homosexuality.

Speaking of terrorism. The government clearly does not have a handle on the matter. Dear Politicians…can you address that particular issue? Or will that interfere with all the effort you have been putting into marking time until the next election? What about the increase in insecurity? What about violence against women and rape? Road accidents? Ill-equipped health care facilities? Inadequate education resources? Increase in the cost of living? Youth unemployment? Poor water and electricity supply? Corruption? Any plans on tackling any of these issues or are your agendas too packed with bedroom affairs that you shouldn’t be concerning yourselves with!?

International Day of the Girl

Today is International Day of the Girl.

I woke up thinking of Liz, a 16-year-old Kenyan girl who was gang raped, beaten and dumped in a pit latrine three months ago. She was walking home from her grandfather’s funeral when she was attacked by six men, some of whom she knew by name. More on Liz’s story here. Liz suffered a spinal injury and has developed obstetric fistula. Her rapists were told to slash grass  as punishment. Really?!? Slash grass!? Whatever happened to the police “protecting and serving”!?!? It’s all simultaneously heartbreaking, frustrating and disturbing.

We, as a society, need to take action to ensure that this doesn’t happen to our girls. We need effective action. We need mechanisms in place that not only protect girls but also allow us to thrive and live free of the fear that our lives are constantly under threat. Measures need to be taken to punish rapists not enable them. They absolutely cannot continue walking away with a slap on the wrist.

We need justice for our girls. Liz was denied justice from the get-go. If there was justice she would have gotten home safe that day. Justice would be Liz being able to get to her destination without being attacked physically and verbally. She didn’t get that and the system continued to fail her from then on. The police didn’t follow the proper procedure in dealing with the case. Her rapists are free and have been tormenting both Liz and her family. Higher authorities have been dragging their feet on this and many other similar cases. Something’s gotta give…we need change and we need it now.

There is a petition calling for justice for Liz. Yes, I know, we shouldn’t have to sign a petition for her or any other victim to get justice. It should be a given but sadly that is not the case. The Kenyan system is failing our girls and we cannot stand by and let it. Please sign the petition. There are also details on that page on how you can donate money to pay Liz’s hospital bills and ensure that she can get the surgeries and treatment she needs.

As we observe International Day of the Girl, let us ask ourselves what we can do to ensure that girls worldwide have a nurturing environment that will allow them to realize their full potential.

 

No Country For Women Part 2

Every once in a while you encounter a person who is so questionable that there is no word in any language that can aptly describe their character. You want to call the person an idiot but then you realize that would be an insult to the word.

A few days ago, a certain Ronald Kibuule, Minister for Youth Affairs in Uganda proved to be such a person. While addressing youth, Kibuule said, “I have talked to the IGP and the police in Kampala to see that if a woman is raped they look at how she was dressed. Most women currently dress poorly especially the youth. If she is dressed poorly and is raped, no one should be arrested,” When he was called to verify the reports, he stated that, “indecent dressing was “an open invite to rapists”.”

What’s this!? If dressing is the issue, then how come we have children in diapers, covered up from neck to toe in their onesies getting raped? How come we have fully clothed women, with only their faces exposed getting raped? The problem has never been one’s dressing. It’s people who think that a woman’s body is their stomping ground and that women were created solely to fulfill their every sexual urge. It’s the rapists. It’s people, especially in positions of power, like Kibuule, who encourage rapists, cheer them on and protect them, all without missing a beat.

So indecent dressing is “an open invite to rapists”? Really!? How so!? Rape is not something that victims go looking for. It has never been and it will never be. It’s not an experience that people wake up thinking they want to go through. The fact that Kibuule’s brain processed that statement and allowed his mouth to actually verbalize it is very scary. It’s even more disturbing to know that there are people out there who support him and share his views. What’s worse, Kibuule insinuated that women who dress indecently and are raped should be charged. I mean really!? This man is just something else.

How long will such madness continue!? When oh when will women stop being violated and treated like disposable objects!? Something’s gotta give.

There have been calls for Kibuule to explain himself over his views. I am not sure what explanations people are looking for because it is pretty clear where he stands when it comes to rape and by extension his opinion of women. How can he possibly explain away such statements!? It’s time we stop condoning our leaders’ life-endangering utterances, attitudes, actions and behavior. We really don’t need such people in positions of power and influence.

Please sign the petition demanding Kibuule’s resignation. I would expect him to do so voluntarily but as you can deduce from his utterances he is not that kind of person.

Rape is not a women’s only issue. It’s everyone’s issue. You don’t have to imagine the victim as your mother/aunt/sister/cousin/girlfriend/fiancée/ wife either in order to empathize and advocate against rape and rape culture. All you need to know is that women are human beings and their violation is unacceptable and can never be justified.

To you Kibuule, you are a danger not only to women but to the entire human race. Please find the darkest corner, sit there, reevaluate your life space and take a vow of silence…FOREVER.

 

 

We must do better for our children

Elders are supposed to lead by example. They are the supposed to be the highly respected reservoirs of a society’s wisdom. They are supposed to pass on cultures and traditions. They are supposed to teach. They are supposed to correct. They are supposed to uplift. Most importantly they are supposed to protect. Oh, how I wish they would all just do what they are supposed to.

I remember a few years ago when we had gone to see the government doctor, there was a girl there, about 5 years old, who looked visibly shaken. That light that emanates from every child’s eyes was lacking in hers. She was in the company of her parents. Her mother held her hand while her father stood next to them fidgeting. I wondered what their story was. After several hours of queuing waiting for our turn, we found out that the girl had been raped by her father. The police brought them in so that she could be examined.  Like most people around me, I was saddened and enraged. The girl was raped by her father, forced to sit in a car with him, and later examined by the doctor in his presence. WHY? Why would someone rape a little girl, rape anyone for that matter? Her own father who was supposed to protect and defend her, chose to rape her instead. Why keep the girl in his presence?

Sadly, this is something that happens to many children in Kenya. It is sickening. What’s worse is that rape is taken so lightly such that victims are often blamed and judged. It’s not uncommon for victims to be told that they provoked the rapists or even that they consented either by a gesture or their body language. In cases where children are raped by their fathers, their mothers are often blamed. They are accused of bringing up ill-mannered children who lack the ability to resist sexual advances, or not fulfilling their wifely duties adequately such that their husbands are forced to look elsewhere.

A few months ago, a children’s charity filed a petition on behalf of over 240 victims of child rape. They were raped by fathers, uncles, grandfathers, policemen and neighbors. Over 240…it’s heartbreaking. The police refused to investigate unless there were witnesses, claimed the girls consented to intercourse and even locked up one of the victims. Thankfully, the High Court ordered the police to reinvestigate the complaints of rape. It shouldn’t take the intervention of the court for the police to do something that they were supposed to do from the get go.

The girls experiences are a clear indicator that we need to change our systems. With the broken systems that we have, people know that they can commit crimes against children and go on about their daily business merrily. Police threaten the victims with jail time if they speak up against them or the other perpetrators who are considered respected members of the community. In cases where the police or one of their own are not involved, they ask for bribes before they can carry out any investigations.

Enough is enough. As a society, we must do better for our children. We can’t let rapists keep getting away with it because they are “respected elders.” The system needs an overhaul. These bribe-taking police officers need to go. Justice must be served. Rapists cannot continue to hide behind titles that create an environment for them to continue living carefree as their victims suffer in silence. It’s unacceptable.

Enough with the victim-blaming. Enough with the perpetrator-protecting. Enough with callous community members. Enough with lazy leadership. Listen up leaders, these are the issues that need to be addressed not the furniture in parliament or your offices. After all, no fancy chair has ever created a safer environment. You, on the other hand, have the ability and power to create a safer Kenya for our children and our women. As communities we also need to play our role in the creation of an environment that we are not afraid to live in.