A personal and impassioned article…
Last week women took a blow in Kenya. Attacked by fellow Kenyan men. I use the plural deliberately, because the screams of one single woman, being assaulted and accosted by a group of men, was not just about what happened to that woman. It was about all of us.
Violent Sexual Assault
On the weekend of the 5th of March, a female motorist was involved in a traffic incident on Forest Road, where she allegedly knocked down a boda boda rider (public transport motorbikes). Fearing being mobbed, she attempted to speed off. The predominant crowd of boda boda riders who witnessed this traffic incident, gave chase.
Catching up with her, they yanked her door open and proceeded to strip her, while others groped her as she screamed. Mercilessly, they shouted that she wasn’t going anywhere. According to them, she was escaping the scene of the crime. So, they decided to stop her; and this is how they chose to do it; with violence and sexual assault.
Screaming For Life As Others Looked On
There are excruciatingly disturbing things about what happened on Forest Road. The fact that it’s been renamed, Wangari Mathai Road, celebrating a female icon. And yet, it is here that womanhood was desecrated by these men. The fact that these mobs of men saw absolutely nothing wrong with their actions. The fact that this happened in broad daylight, in traffic. With other motorists present. The fact that the police were just a few feet away. The fact that a woman should have to scream for her life, in terror while others look on.
Thirty-five. That’s how old she is. And now this incident is ingrained in her mind for the rest of her life. It doesn’t leave you. I know. Because I have experienced violence, assault. This incident triggered me.
Assault And Violence Against Women In Kenya
According to National Statistics taken in 2014, over 40% of women in Kenya have encountered assault or violence. Research shows escalation during the COVID-19 lock down periods.
So, at least 40% of women in Kenya watching this clip or reading about this incident were most likely triggered. 40%. That’s an astronomical number. I struggle to wrap my mind around it.
Most of these reports of violence are committed by intimate partners. I use that word, ‘partners’ loosely and with disdain given the context.
It therefore does not come as a surprise, that if 40% of women report gender-based violence from their own partners, that this same crop of men would see absolutely nothing wrong with attacking, stripping and sexually assaulting a stranger in traffic.
There is currently a boda-boda crackdown going on around the country. The President has called for the industry to be streamlined and brought to order. The next few months we undoubtedly be trying for many of these riders. It is unfortunate that many are innocent. However, I support a crackdown, and I support laws and regulations being implemented in this industry.
Violence Against Women A Societal Issue
Yet, in my opinion, this isn’t a boda boda issue. This is a societal problem. It doesn’t matter that these men were boda boda riders, they could have been hawkers, mechanics, lawyers, salesmen — whatever profession.
The greatest rift that was caused in the hearts of women seeing this clip, was that it could happen at all, in a place we call home, in broad daylight. These hooligans are a representation of our society. 40%. My mind keeps freezing when I think of these statistics.
I grew up in a family of strong, protective men. This was my introduction to what a man is. Strong. Protective.
So, for me, the day my friend and I were attacked on our way home caused a huge rift in my psyche that has never completely been repaired. We thankfully escaped with just a few physical bruises because I’d managed to overpower my attacker and gone for help. It was men who came back with me to rescue my friend. Men, who ensured we got home safe. The 60%.
There is a 60%, at least, of men who honour women in this country. Who protect, provide and proclaim. Who fight for our rights, who stand between us and this other crop of degenerates.
That number is too few.
A voice in the clip of the boda-boda attack, which I haven’t heard anyone else talking about, is of one man, shouting, ‘Usimpige. No, no, no. Usimpige.’ ‘Do not attack her. No, no, no, do not attack her.’
He was drowned out by the crazed mob vying for blood which wasn’t theirs to vie for. His voice stood out for me because we need more of him.
It was a male police officer who finally came to the young lady’s aid. And since then, many male voices have risen, decrying this horrific, unforgivable incident.
But it is not enough. 60% is not enough. It’s not enough for this woman who must now face the most difficult kind of healing. It’s not enough for all the women around Kenya who were triggered just by hearing her screams. It’s not enough for all the other incidents that go unreported, unnoticed, untold.
It’s not enough.
We need more men to pick up this cry. More men to match down the streets of Kenya and say no, not in our name, not on our watch. We need a male driven campaign to protect their daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, girlfriends. Just — the women in their lives. Women. We need more men to stand up for womanhood in this country.