meshack yobby posted this 26 November 2014

the stories

As of the time of publication of this piece, there are five videos of the brutal, insensitive sexual assault of women by gangs of men in broad daylight.

It started with the lady stripped of her skirt (and almost her vest) at the Accra Road Embassava Sacco terminus. Her fault? A tout had made advances, possibly touched a part of her, upon which she turned and verbally assaulted her. Other touts and layabouts crowded around, and when one shouted “Unaongea vibaya na vile umevaa vibaya (you are abusing us and you are dressed indecently)”, a few started stripping her. They ripped her skirt into shreds and wanted to also tear her top off her. Only one or two men tried to help her. Blogs posted the video and said she was stripped because she was indecently dressed. Social media took up the chorus of dressing. If you study the video, you can go to church in the top she was in. Her skirt was definitely not too short.

One Mash Flowers , on 13th November 2014 at 8:36am wrote on Facebook: ‘The lady is to blame she was rude to us ndo tukamvua its fun seeing her cry hahahahaha’ A few hours after social media came alive with the story, another video surfaced, this time in Mombasa. Blogs claimed it was touts who did it, but they are wrong. After the Burial of Sheikh Aboud Rogo, hundreds of Muslim youth went on a rampage in Mombasa, attacking motorists and destroying property. Unfortunately, a lady found herself in the middle of the violence. She was dressed in a long yellow top and a pair of blue leggings. She kept saying that she was getting out of their presence, but chants of ‘vua nguo (strip her)’ increased, and her top was ripped off in all directions. She kept begging the youth to leave her alone, but they surged forward, ripped her leggings and her panties. She fell down, and as she was getting up, her hands were pulled in different directions and someone grabbed her leg. Another one put his hand on her groin and possibly fingered her, upon which she screams loudly. The street was full of hundreds of men, and no, there was nothing indecent about her dressing.

By now, social media was ablaze, with Kilimani Mums Nairobi organizing a protest dubbed #MyDressMyChoice, whose aim was to advocate for the protection of women against gangs and to say that no matter what a woman wears, no man has any authority to lay a hand on her. Another group led by Robert Alai said that women should not wear indecently. On 19th July 2012 a 9:33pm, he replied to a tweet: @NuruMugambi You are so old-skul. I need to teach you how to show some flesh. It is nice for my health and your health.LOL Alai now said that he would sponsor the stripping of women who were indecently dressed.

On the eve of the protest, another video surfaced, this time of a middle-aged lady stark naked, wandering confused at the Starbus terminus. A woman gave her a shawl, and when the naked lady wrapped it around herself, a man tried snatching it away. A woman, possibly one of the Starbus crew, smiles. The protest happened. Petitions were served. A number of women leaders, including Rachel Shebesh and Esther Passaris marched.

On the same evening, a woman was stripped naked in Kayole and beaten and stoned until she collapsed. Her sister tried helping her and suffered the same fate. Only a policeman passing by fired into the air and saved them. One Harry Bayo on the same day wrote on Facebook:

‘Kayole we have done it #spotthemstripthemnaked mehango stage momo stripped naked around 7.30pm’ Social media again went crazy with people saying ‘women should dress decently, now this debate can end’.Harry later deactivated his account after police did a sweep in the area and arrested several people. A day later there were rumours that the lady had died. The National Assembly on Tuesday the 18th of November, through a motion brought by Hon. Rachel Shebesh, adjourned to discuss the violation of women. She said it was not about nudity, it was about gangs. Hon. Jakoyo Midiwo said he would bring an amendment that would see perpetrators of sex crimes face the death penalty. Everyone who spoke supported the motion, except for Hon. Irungu Kang’ata and nominated MP Hon. Mwaura o, who said that members were being hypocrites and people should not be allowed to dress however they want. Aden Duale said that whatever the youth did in Mombasa was not Islam. A Muslim man would not dare touch the private parts of a woman. It was molestation.

A few days later, the real story emerges. The woman hawked boiled eggs in the area, and one well-known tout called Muiruri are three of them and refused to pay, saying that she was a prostitute and he would sleep with her that night. The woman demanded her pay and said she was someone’s wife; she would not sleep with him. Angry at her rejection, he followed her as she was going to board a matatu to another area where she had customers. He yelled insults at her and called his friends to look at the prostitute. They attacked her, beating her up and stripping her.

She was not indecently dressed.

For days after that, stories of street harassment surfaced from women. One was in a maxi dress, and touts around the Khoja stage wanted to strip her to see if her behind was real or fake. An old man saved her by saying he would curse them if they made him see his granddaughter’s nakedness. Another one in a knee-length skirt and a trench coat was almost stripped at Odeon, and was only saved when five other women shouted down the touts. A pregnant woman was almost stripped, but she hit the assailant hard using a rolling pin she had just bought. Other women came to her rescue and beat up the man. A man walked up to another lady and threateningly said ‘Ni nguo mzuri utavaa (you will put on a decent dress)’. She was in a knee-length dress. A bread delivery man placed his hand on a pregnant woman’s thighs and said she was exciting him.

For a couple of days, things went quiet. Social media concentrated on the story of the Ugandan girl who was assaulted by her nanny.

Then, within forty eight hours of each other, two videos surfaced, one in which a lady was stark naked on the ground. A man with a wedding band spread her legs open as others shouted ‘Hatutaki umalaya Nairobi (we don’t want prostitution in Nairobi)’. Her genitals are repeatedly slapped, her legs spread further open and fingers shoved into her womanhood. The video stops when she rolls under a vehicle amid calls for the driver to move it. Bloggers say it happened in Muthurwa, in which, incidentally, a pregnant woman was stripped naked and beaten by touts in 2012 for allegedly wearing a 'provokingly' short dress. The other video is in a bus said to be on the Githurai route. The woman is obviously quite frightened, trying to get one of the men to protect her by telling him she loves him. She tries getting up, but is shoved down on the seat, her hands held together, her legs held apart. She screams for them to stop. A man with a wedding band plays with her genitals as someone in the background asks her where her money is. The video ends as one of the men asks that a bottle be brought and the lady begs that they do not insert a bottle into her. She was not indecently dressed.

the silence The Deputy President called for the arrest of the perpetrators, and the Inspector General called for the victims to report the crimes at the nearest police stations so that the criminals could be arrested and charged. Rights groups argued that it was making the victims relive the trauma, and the State could proffer charges on behalf of the victims; that if a person is murdered, the deceased could not be expected to make a statement for the police to take action.

Tragically, the conversation centred on the hemline of dresses instead of the sex gangs. Women blamed women for the indecent dressing that provoked the strippings. People of stature in the church said that if stripping was the only way to achieve decency, they would support it. Others in the church said that whenever they saw certain parts of a woman, they got aroused, and that we should not blame the men –some had never had a woman in their beds. Still more people said that the debate was about decency, and that was all.

The Church leadership was silent.

Maendeleo ya Wanawake chairlady said women should dress decently in order to avoid being stripped.

The President was silent. The First Lady was silent. Women parliamentarians visited the First Lady, but it was more about the Beyond Zero campaign.

Silence, everywhere.

The women were victimized again.

the case NONE OF THE WOMEN STRIPPED WAS INDECENTLY DRESSED. IF they were indecent and they were stripped, it was a violation of their rights, and criminal. IF a lone man stripped a woman, charges of attempted rape would be slapped on him. The perpetrators find confidence in numbers. IF it was about decency, the men would not have molested the women. They would have covered her up. SHOVING fingers into the woman was rape.. NONE OF THE WOMEN WAS DRESSED INDECENTLY. This was never about decency. The conversation should NEVER have been about decency. Focus should be on the perpetrators, on the crimes. By talking about hemlines instead of how to stop these criminals, we victimize and stigmatize the victims. They are victims, they need protection.

*the solutions*

I have contacted a number of women parliamentarians about this and proposed a few solutions. Only Hon. Rachel Shebesh and Hon. Martha Karua have replied, saying they are looking keenly at my proposals. If Parliament plans to do something, it had better do it fast. Talking is one thing, but unless change is felt on the ground, talk is useless.

I must, however, laud the police. The emergency line 999 response is pretty fast. And while it takes less than three minutes to strip a person, the perpetrators always stick around to enjoy the nudity. I urge everyone to call 999 whenever such crimes happen; a few criminals will be caught. I also urge everyone to step up, like the people in Komarock did to protect the minor girl and her aunt. Hongera.

I also urge everyone to challenge their leaders and bug them for action instead of whining on social media and leaving it at that.

Here are the proposed solutions: 1. Sustained radio campaigns (matatu crews listen to radio) about sexual harassment and violation of women's rights. COVAW, FIDA and other organizations that deal with women's rights should sponsor these sustained programmes. There are 16 days of activism against gender violence coming up in the NGO world, by the way. See how to maximize on those. 2. Asking Matatu Owners Association to only allow their crew in uniform to tout. In addition, they should implore their supervisors at their terminus to ensure potential passengers are nit harassed. We have been blaming touts, perhaps we should try involning MOA in the security of their terminus. 3. Punishing Saccos whose crews are involved in sexual harassment incidents by taking their vehicles off the road. 4. Prosecution of sex offenders. There are CCTV cameras all over the CBD. We don't need to solely rely on mobile phone footage. 5. Public figures, starting with the First Lady and opinion leaders, including Matatu Owners Association condemning of herd mentality that leads to sexual offences. Matatu Saccos need to empower their crew to stop sex offences that happen at their termini. They have the numbers. They can stop them. 6. Education that while some level of decorum should be considered while dressing, we cannot impose our upbringing and religion on others. Kenya is not a theocracy. Only extremists force people to live by their values. 7. Opening an online register of sex offenders and holding employers responsible for any offences such individuals provoke while under their employment. 8. Stigmatizing sex offenders. 9. Indoctrinating mutual respect through the education system, right from the elementary level. 10. Men need to speak up, to condemn these actions without saying 'she had a part to play in it'. Only men can influence the thoughts of other men. Complacency that disables conscience is a threshhold we should never get to. 11. Lobby the governors and senators to empower county council askaris to arrest sex pests. I don't know if legislation is needed here, but the askaris are many and they are all over town. If they can catch someone who spat two streets away, they can surely help prevent sex crimes. But legislation might be.needed here. If the city council has units, they could have askaris specially dedicated to sex crimes such as groping. If within his powers, he should also ban touting by non-uniformed people. Anyone i uniform can be easily traced. 12. Lobby the Inspector General to turn the gender desk to a Gender Unit. He should also use CCTV cameras on sex crime hotspots, and have regular patrols in those areas 13. I don't know if this exists, but the Judiciary should have a special court for gender based violence crimes. It will expedite the process. 14. Having undercover female police walking those areas to see if sex pests will attack them, then arrest them.

. What I am angry about is that it is slowly being acceptable, this molestation of women, with no one to help them. I am fearful that Kenya will one day turn into India and DRC if this problem is not nipped in the bud. We need to borrow models and policies from Rwanda, where no man can dare even slap a woman.

I want to live in a Kenya in which my wife and daughters can walk freely without me being paranoid that men will shamelessly attack them and go free.

Last edited 26 November 2014

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Sophie Ngugi posted this 15 December 2014

Yes, we deserve a Kenya where women and girls are free. This patriarchal oppression and the silence around it MUST STOP. The 'decency' debate is just an excuse, does undressing them make the decent? And who defines decency? I am glad some arrests have been made and I hope justice will be served. Enough is enough

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