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BODY SHAMING IS A HARMFUL CULTURE, IT’S A MATTER OF SHAME

BY Claire Kwamboka

Anyone can be a victim of body shaming, and anyone can be a body-shamer. In Kenya and the world at large body shaming, is so prevalent in everyday life, but it has not been looked at as the highly problematic behaviour that it is. Most often, people would think of it as harmless jokes, rather than cruel bards that hurt deep.

What people need to know is that body-shaming is an indication of discrimination and social bias based on outside appearances. Body shaming refers to saying something negative about a person’s body. The comment can be about age, size, hair, clothes, food, looks and all those aspects that represent a human. It amounts to humiliation and it brings down self-respect and feelings or ideas that our unique appearance is not good enough.

What most Kenyans do not know is that body shaming is a form of bullying that can result in emotional trauma, especially among young people. Body shaming most of the time is done by our friends, family, workmates, random people in the streets and even the media. It could be done knowingly or unknowingly.

The most common cause of body shaming is weight. A person might be cruised for their size, shape, height or colour. In the society that we live in today, someone will be criticized for their looks. What we forget is that no one is ever perfect, you are either too skinny or plus size. The pressure from the media and society makes people want to look in a certain way.

The negative comments that people make about someone can cause people, especially teenagers to engage in unhealthy habits so that they can achieve their goal of looking a certain way. These unhealthy habits can include starving yourself or wanting to bleach which can lead to self-harm, depression, low self-esteem and even trauma.

Women most of the time are very sensitive when it comes to weight. People have different struggles for example some people struggle with losing weight and gaining weight. Such issues make people delicate and when we keep commenting and laughing it brings a feeling of insecurity.

Society today has encouraged a culture where body-shaming is a normal thing. People will make jokes and even call you in the streets by describing your looks. People get jobs based on their looks.

This is a culture that is unhealthy and tends to be detrimental in the long run.  We can overcome body shaming by trying to nurture an environment where everyone feels comfortable with their body shape and skin tone. We must learn not to comment on how people look. Learning to accept the way we are bringing positive body image. Accepting the way, we are and not comparing ourselves with other people’s physical appearance or personality. Lastly eating healthy food, keeping hydrated and exercising.

peace walk

Sexual violence: An ongoing problem for Kenyan women

Crime Si Poa joins other human rights organizations and Kenyans at large to highly condemn the incident in which a female motorist was attacked by boda boda operators on Wangari Maathai Road. The heinous sexual assault is a wake-up call on the need to tame rogue and patently criminal elements within the fast-growing boda boda industry.

As a society, we have allowed menacing and undisciplined elements within the industry to form the most potent and mobile organized gangs in certain parts of the country. The unfortunate Wangari Maathai Road incident involving a lady motorist stands out for one peculiar thing. Some members of the public joined the marauding boda boda gangs in sexually molesting the victim. That is how low as a nation we have sunk.

Where are our values as a people? How could that sad incident happen on a busy highway and not one person saw it fit to come to the rescue of the victim? Is this not the same attitude that informs our indifference when our neighbours, friends, work colleagues and even relatives are subjected to repeated abuse by persons well known?

Are we not equally guilty when we shield perpetrators from facing the law in the false belief that we are protecting the “family” or “societal image?” Does it not prick our conscience when we pretend to mourn victims of violence yet we had it in our power to save them from abuse when they were alive? Shame on our pretentious nature that sheds premium social media tears but cannot stand up to be counted when it matters most on issues sexual and gender-based violence.

This is not a gender war. Neither is it a class war. This is a targeted war being waged on the soul of our nation. It is a war we must fight together and win together. It is time we restored our pride and dignity as a Kenyan people.

While we expect the law enforcement agencies to act with speed and restore order and sanity in the sector without victimizing innocent, law abiding operators, we on the other hand expect officials of the boda boda associations to work with law enforcement agencies in identifying, profiling and weeding out criminal elements in their midst. The few minority rotten apples must not be allowed to sully the industry which has become a big employer.

Crime Si Poa calls on all its members and all young people countrywide to take leadership in helping transform this sector for the better good of all.