Tag Archives: Violence against women

‪#‎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.

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#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.

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!?

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.

 

 

No Country For Women

About Kenya and all the other countries that are increasingly becoming hostile towards women.

Last week, two public incidents happened in Kenya that made me question whether I would live to see the day when women are accorded the respect and honor that comes with being human beings. The social media commentary that ensued after both incidents simultaneously infuriated and saddened me. What am I talking about? Well, read on dear fan.

Mike Sonko, the Nairobi Senator, called in to Caroline Mutoko’s morning breakfast radio show. Now, Sonko has been known to help his constituents by paying their rent, hospital bills, school fees for their children and transport costs among others. He is the regular communal PIN-free ATM if you will. There’s nothing wrong with that. He is after all helping people make ends meet. However, as good-intentioned as his actions are, dishing out money is not a comprehensive sustainable plan to get people out of poverty. When he called into the radio show, Caroline asked him what his long terms plans were. You know, plans to ensure that people are able to become financially independent as opposed to constantly seeking help from Sonko. This is a reasonable question and it’s something many people want to know. Sonko went on a non-answer spree and Caroline, not one to be deterred, repeated the question several times. Now, we all know long term plans are many a Kenyan politicians enemy. Sonko was clearly out of his comfort zone. Instead of giving the typical diplomatic BS answer that politicians have prepared for anything, he begun hurling insults at Caroline.

Why is it that the first response to be being challenged by a woman is to resort to sexually-related insults and threats to her life!? I doubt that insults would have been his first line of defense if it was a man who asked him the question. What does it say about our society when an elected leader, unable to articulate himself, instinctively eases into the verbal abuse lane!? What’s even worse is the number of people, both men and women, who supported his actions and even made numerous jokes about it. It really is not a laughing matter.

In the same week, Evans Kidero, the Nairobi Governor, showcased his true colors to those who couldn’t/ were pretending not to see the black and white before. A group of city county workers, led by Women Representative Rachel Shebesh, went to Kidero’s office to demand better pay. At one point in the video, you see Shebesh having a conversation with Kidero. What does the man do seconds after!? He slaps her and walks back into his office promptly shutting its door. Really!? On being asked about the incident, Kidero’s first instinct was to cling to temporary amnesia. Later on, he claimed that the slap was in reaction to an assault around his lower abdomen. Wait…wait…wait….first he has no recollection of slapping Shebesh and then suddenly he remembers why he slapped her!? Huh!?

Needless to say, Kidero’s behavior was unacceptable. I thought everyone would share that opinion but to my shock and horror many people, men and women, spoke out or rather typed in his support. Memes were made and jokes were told. It all honestly worries me. What kind of a society are we trying to create here!? Claims were made that Shebesh acts like a man and should be treated as such. What!? Such comments are way too dumb for me to address. Others said she deserved it because of comments she made in the past. Again, what!? There is absolutely no reason for Kidero to have done what he did. None. As a leader, one should be able to diffuse situations. All Kidero had to do was to calm people down and have a conversation with them. Or he could have simply stayed in his office if he wasn’t ready to deal with life at that point. It would be better if he just removed himself from office but I don’t see that happening. A girl can wish though!

We, men and women, need to stop condoning such behavior and speak out against it. Violence against women is not a women’s only issue. Men are part of the cycle…so step up to the plate men and do the right thing. I urge you to think twice, and possibly a third time, before you stick that “Angry Feminist” label on me. If violence against women doesn’t make you angry then you really should reevaluate your life space. I have said it before and I will say it again….women should be treated with respect and honor because we are human beings not objects for you – misogynistic men and the women that constantly cheer you on- to do with as you please.