This week began with a negative narrative on the rights of women in Kenya as yet another rape case involving a Member of Parliament hit the airwaves. Nancy, (not her real name) a 29 year old Communication Consultant found herself in a precarious position when her client and family friend turned tables on her during a business meeting and asked for sexual favors in return. Nancy explains that the MP kept postponing the meeting to odd hours and stressed he had to sign the papers on the fateful day. When they were alone, the MP called in a doctor to conduct a forceful HIV test and when Nancy refused he physically assaulted her until she agreed to test. The test came back and confirmed that she was HIV negative the MP asked his aides to close the door and he raped her repeatedly. This is the latest in the cases of sexual violence against women, girls and children that are now taking place in Kenya in an alarming rate. What has angered me the most is the arguments of many Kenyans on social media about rape.
Going through the comments section of some of the articles, I was disappointed to see arguments such as: “it’s really shameful our MPs are being accused of rape but really what business was a married woman doing at 10pm in a man’s office on a Saturday without her husband?” … “She had gone to solicit tenders in exchange for sexual favors so she deserved what she got” … “Where was her husband and why did he let her go alone?” …. “People should respect marriage shame on the two individuals involved (perpetrator and victim)” ….and the comments went on and on shifting blame to the victim. Sadly and absurdly, most have let Nancy to shoulder the actions of the perpetrator, policed and questioned her life choices and went further to conclude how she might have provoked the perpetrator to rape her! As a feminist and gender activist who wishes to see women rights being respected, I have a message for Kenyans who think rape is the fault of the victim.
Firstly, there is nothing humorous about rape. All the jokes you are making on social media about rape with innuendos of the prey and the predator are insensitive and distasteful. STOP! Secondly, rape can happen to anyone. Those reading between the lines and concluding that the story doesn’t add up are doing so because they think rape happens to some people, such as the ones that go to business meetings at night, wear short skirts and other reasons we like to attach to sexual assault that are not necessarily related to the act. NEWS FLASH, rape can happen to anyone and as soon as you understand that then you will know it is the business of everyone to talk about rape and ensure action is taking against the perpetrator because it is never the victims fault! Thirdly, 65% of rape cases are committed by a person known to the victim according to the Gender Violence Recovery Center which admits 8 to 10 cases of gender based violence every day, most of which are rape related. The accused MP in Nancy’s case was a long-time family friend well known by her husband, that is why she never felt the need to drag her husband to the meeting as a bodyguard because she thought she would be safe with her husband’s friend – who by the way also happens to be a Member of Parliament and her client.
As I conclude I want to applaud Nancy for hitting back at her critics through her lawyer. In her own words she asks “Does it mean that a woman is a fair game for rape if darkness finds her away from home? The presence of a woman is not consent for rape”. I want to urge all women’s rights organizations, members of parliament, the police and other law enforcement agencies to take this issue with the seriousness it deserves and ensure justice prevails even if it means us taking to the streets one more time to remind them their responsibilities, we are ready!
By Felister Gitonga, a feminist, gender activist and member of FEMNET. Follow her on Twitter @MakandiGitonga