Have you ever wondered how it feels like to be a girl or a woman in Kenya? Despite exceptional contributions to society, girls and women suffer non-equivalently. Gender and sexual-based violence is a problem that is rampant amongst us. The African culture endorses SGBV and ownership of the female gender. The African cultural nature has also made demands that women be submissive.
Recently in Kisumu, Crime Si Poa (CSP) team dealt with a case of a 70-year-old retired teacher who was arrested after it was discovered that he has been defiling three 13-year-old girls. Lucy, one of the pupils was groomed and used by the culprit to lure the other two pupils to the house of the culprit where he defiled them.
The man was caught when one of the pupils did not make it home that night. The worried mother, of the minor, went fetching for her in school the following day, where she found her. After interrogation by the mother and her teacher, the terrified student revealed that Lucy took them to the perpetrator, who defiled them. The matter was reported to the area police station, unfortunately, the culprit could not be detained since he “fell ill” and had been admitted to a hospital.
As I author this article, the girls are being taken through counselling and the perpetrator is still sadly walking free. Let us face it, reporting SGBV cases is a subject that brings judgment and victimization to the victims. Society has taught us if a woman is assaulted it is their fault.
The cycle continues, and before we even deal with the first case, another case yet of another 13-year-old girl Mitchelle Wanjeri, a class six pupil at Mwariki Primary School is unveiled, this time in Nakuru County. Wanjeri faced two attempted defilement incidences. In one of the henious incidents, the perpetrator (the alleged neighbour’s husband) tried forced penetration using fingers.
Despite the matter being reported to the authorities and relevant government officials, no actions have been taken against the perpetrator. Her mother has been unsupportive even after several accounts of being summoned, she has refused to show up and an arrest warrant was issued to her for neglecting parental duties. The mother has since been missing in action prolonging the chance of getting Mitchell the justice deserved. Our efforts to get Mitchelle a rescue centre to protect her from the abusive environment have not bored any fruit.
Sadly, Mitchelle lacked support documents, which include medical and police reports needed to be able to be admitted to the Clabrin Shelter a rescue centre based in Nakuru. Her mother interfered with previous reports claiming her child is a liar and a prostitute. Just like the other cases mentioned above, this case is still pending and stuck at the police.
Gender-based violence creates unpredictability in young girls. Women and girls live at the mercy of sexual predators who treat them with disdain and subject them to unspeakable violence. This same society is quick to question even the innocence of children when it comes to the subject of gender-based violence.
Some women are also partly to blame as they encourage and promote these archaic patriarchal ideologies as in the case of Mitchelle. Women have been degraded, gagged, humiliated, and stripped away of their dignity over time in such a way that they decide to suffer in silence.
Society does not know how to take responsibility thus we shift the blame to the victims. Perhaps, she seduced the assailant, no, what she wore led to her being raped, she drank too much she deserved it, she is lying she just wants to cause trouble. “If she is beaten, she incited it, if she is raped, she invited it” Gloria Steinem
For how long is society going to tolerate the way in which our young girls are abused, and their childhoods robbed from them? How long do we always have to wonder how high our girls can fly before the monsters and predators get to them and ruin their lives?
Victims are always blamed by those who hold power in the community. Powerful perpetrators get to frame the narrative of violence by frustrating any efforts made to fight SGBV.
It is time to sensitize society on violence against women and change the narrative on violence toward women. As a society, we have lost empathy and the spark that makes us human. We must start seeing the need of valuing and protecting one another.