Tag Archives: Rape

‪#‎RedressForOurWomen‬ : From Street Harassment To Stripping To Sexual Assault

My country Kenya, keeps breaking my heart as it continuously proves just how hostile it is towards us, women. Earlier today, news broke on social media about a woman who was raped in a matatu. Someone took a video of the rape because it is more important to be the source of a viral video than it is to help a woman. The video has been making its rounds online. I haven’t watched it and will not be doing so because I cannot bring myself to see yet another woman be violated. I got chills reading a tweet describing what those sadistic so-called men did to the woman.  A man, who I assume watched the video, responded to that particular tweet with, “Why wasn’t she wearing underwear?” Seriously!? A woman was raped, people watched, others recorded it, and all some idiot is concerned about is underwear!? That’s when you know we live in a society that is heavily invested in rationalizing the violation of women.

These past few weeks we have seen videos of and heard about women being stripped naked because they were dressed “indecently.” One of the women was stripped because she simply asked that the man who bought eggs from her pay up. Yes, she did what our society teaches us women not to do – demand what belongs to her. The gang that stripped her jumped on the “indecently” dressed bandwagon of course because they knew what we all know, the morality police and victim blaming army would keep them safe.

When, we women and the men who openly stand with us, mobilized around #MyDressMyChoice, the foot soldiers of patriarchy claimed that we were advocating for “indecency.” Never mind that (in)decency is subjective. “They want to walk around naked,” they said. They insisted on missing the point of #MyDressMyChoice  and poured all their energy into rubbishing the efforts that women and select men were/are making towards advocating for women’s rights and putting an end to the violence meted out against us on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, the videos, social media and mainstream media commentary have proven what we, Kenyan women, have known all along – our men are our biggest threat. There are very few safe spaces for women in our country. We are surrounded by men who feel/think that they have the rights to a woman’s body.

I can’t count the number of times I have been harassed while walking around minding my own business. From the “smile supuu, umeiva jo,” to the random men who grab my hand, and hold on tight all the while insisting on having a conversation. Of course refusing to respond almost always results in being verbally abused. Suddenly you go from being a “supuu” to “sura kama kiatu.” Because how dare a woman reject a man’s advances when she should be grateful for getting attention from said man!?

Street harassment is scary and cannot be explained away by saying “Oh don’t take it seriously. He is just complimenting you.” There have been many occasions when I have been soaked in fear, praying that a man doesn’t physically attack me, as I walked away from/ignored his catcalls. It’s not an experience that I would wish on anyone, yet women go through it daily.

Enough is enough. It is time to put an end to violence against women. No, you don’t have to think of the victim as your mother/wife/girlfriend/sister/daughter/aunt in order to fight for women’s rights. You fight because women are human beings who deserve to live free of fear and violence. Our value isn’t derived from our relationships with men. It is derived simply from being human beings.

We can no longer continue to be silent as women are being violated. We cannot continue to rationalize and explain away this violence. We can’t ignore it either. We must stand up and speak out against it. We must stop using culture and religion to condone the violence. We must stop victim blaming and shaming. We can’t afford to be complacent about women’s safety and security. We must protect women.

Kenyan men – why are you so hostile towards us? Before you say “not all men” first ask what you, “the good man,” are doing to protect women. If your answer is “nothing” then you are also part of the problem. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” So do something. Don’t stand there and record a video as a woman is being violated, help her. Don’t keep quiet when your friend is busy catcalling women, call him out and let him know you won’t stand for it.

Select Kenyan women – do you not love yourself? Stop with the “I don’t condone “indecency” but blah blah,” “If only we girls dressed better…,” “We should teach our girl self-value…,” and “Let’s first have self-respect ladies…” Your respectability politics is not going to stop the violence and neither is it going to protect any of us from these brutal men. We all need to actively participate in ending violence against our own beings.

Religious types – what God do you serve? I know my God did not create me to be oppressed and violated, neither is it His intention for me to live in perpetual fear. Every time a woman is violated you come out swinging with your Bible and scripture quotes. “The Bible says this and that about being a good woman.” “Oh, even Adam and Eve had to cover up, why not you?” “Exposing yourself is not Christian-like.” “Your body is the temple…cover up.” Really, you need to stop with the selective Christianity.  Ask yourself, “What Would Jesus Do?” before you pelt bible verses at victims and turn a blind eye to injustice.

Mainstream media – what did women do to you? What are these “Is it right to strip a woman for being “indecent”?” discussions about? There are no two sides to these stories. There is no debate to be had about the safety of women. There is certainly no neutrality when it comes to this. As Desmond Tutu aptly put it, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Government – do you even care? Your silence is loud especially you, women representatives. What type of leaders are you? Argh. “For every moment we remain silent, we conspire against our women” ~ Nelson Mandela.

Social media scum and morality police – Yes you, Robert Alai types. Do us all a favor and jump off a cliff. The world could do without your brand of stupid.

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is also the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. As far as I am concerned, we should work/fight/write/campaign/protest every day to prevent and end violence against women and girls globally.


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.

Men and Miniskirts

Men and miniskirts – what do these two have in common? Well, one seems to be obsessed with the other. Case in point – a recent proposal by the Ugandan Ethics and Integrity minister to enact a legislation that would forbid women from wearing miniskirts. This is part of the proposed Anti-Pornography Bill. Typical African leader behavior – fixate on non-issues and ignore the slew of challenges that actually need to be addressed. I guess “priority” does not exist in some people’s dictionaries.

According to this news article, the  minister said, “Any attire which exposes intimate parts of the human body, especially areas that are of erotic function, is outlawed. Anything above the knee is outlawed. If a woman wears a miniskirt we will arrest her.” What now!? I could think of better ways for law enforcement to use their time and energy. For example, finding and arresting actual threats to public safety. But hey, that’s just me. While we are at it, why is there always a man somewhere who thinks he has the right to dictate what a woman should wear!? There is a seat somewhere for such men…watch your steps as you walk over to it.

In another article he is quoted as saying, “We know people who are indecently dressed: they do it provocatively and sometimes they are attacked. An onlooker is moved to attack her and we want to avoid those areas. He is a criminal but he was also provoked and enticed.” Now, I can’t even begin to analyze all the strains of stupid that are contained in his remarks.

Rape has never been, is never and will never be the victim’s fault. It is statements like the ones made by the minister that encourage rapists and silence their victims. Such remarks empower rape culture. What does he mean by saying the onlooker is moved to attack her!? How can you be moved to attack a person!? Do you not have control over your own body and desires!? A person’s dressing does not give another the right to attack them. This “her dressing provoked me” excuse has been used time and time again to justify sexual assault. It’s time to put a stop to it.

Listen here men, the thing is – you have full control of your body and actions. You don’t have to react to your every desire. You find someone’s dressing enticing – keep that to yourself, it is your opinion after all and we all know what they say about opinions. A woman rejects your advances – what you need to do is fall back not force yourself on her.

Women are not objects for you to do with as you please. Our bodies are not your playgrounds and neither are they your boxing rings. We are people – recognize and respect that.

Now, if you think that you can’t control yourself you should probably reevaluate your life space. After that, maybe you should consider living in seclusion. That way you don’t have to encounter women in miniskirts or any other outfit that you consider provocative. Or jump off a cliff. Or superglue your eyes shut. Just find a way to handle yourself.

Now back to the Ethics and Integrity minister. Perhaps the ministry does not have much going on and he had to find something to justify his position and the  budget they gave him. Perhaps he just wanted the attention that comes with such a controversial proposal. I guess we’ll never know for sure. Apparently the minister is a Catholic priest turned politician. Well, here is a suggestion for you Mr. Minister/Priest – why don’t you address the sexual abuse of boys within the Catholic church!? That is a far more beneficial use of your resources in my opinion.