What you need to know:
- The shaming and blaming of victims worsens the situation.
- Besides punishing rapists, there is a need for aggressive public awareness on the boundaries of relationships and the importance of sexual consent.
Sexual violence in Kenya is widespread in all communities but recent reports suggest that Wajir bears the brunt of the vice with statistics showing one in 10 women in the county is a victim.
Sadly, these tragic incidents do not get appropriate attention from the authorities. Instead, the Maslaha traditional system — in which selected members of a clan, usually a collective of men, mediate the case — continues to be relied upon.
While the system served northern Kenya communities at one point, the new scourge that threatens the very core of the society requires stern action by the government. That will override a system that allows rapists to offload the burden of crime on their families and go unpunished only to repeat them.
Blaming of victims
The shaming and blaming of victims worsens the situation. It reinforces the silence of victims, through which rapists continue to thrive.
Besides, the fact that most rape incidents occur between individuals known to each other and victims are often afraid of arousing the wrath of their attackers or relatives or, for young maidens, bring upon themselves the related stigma said to scare away suitors.
Unfortunately, it seems there are no organisations or programmes in Wajir to create awareness on the rape epidemic or offer resources to support victims and their families through the trauma of such a crime and also help them to find justice.
Besides punishing rapists, there is a need for aggressive public awareness on the boundaries of relationships and the importance of sexual consent.
Given that many victims are, tragically, minors, parents and teachers should sensitise children about sexuality and the social and physical boundaries.
Create safe spaces where victims can report rape crimes without fear of retribution. Victims should not be made to feel like criminals, living in hiding as their assailants walk free. Let’s stop normalising sexual brutality six decades after Independence.
Ms Kassim, public relations expert and political aspirant from Wajir County, is a political science student at Metro State University, Minnesota, USA. [email protected]