Boda boda riders.

| File

Tales of boda boda riders who endure sexual abuse by female customers

In Kenya's bustling urban centres and remote rural areas, the presence of boda bodas has transformed the way people move around. But the challenges in this sector are insurmountable. The latest is sexual harassment of male riders by their customers.

Female predators posing as customers are on the loose. They pretend to be customers with luggage that needs to be taken to their homes.

One rider in Kangemi, Westlands Constituency, Nairobi, knows all too well the trials and tribulations of the two-wheeler business. For his own safety and that of his business, he prefers to be called Jose'.

"These women customers usually have some goods. I met one who had bought a chair," he says.

That bright afternoon, he took her to her destination. On arrival, she asked for help.

"She asked for a helping hand. I carried the chair up to her room. Suddenly, as I was about to leave, she locked the door. She demanded that I give her what she wanted, otherwise she would scream that I wanted to rape her," he says.

The father of four says this was not the last experience he had at the hands of his clients.

“Why haven’t you reported to the police? Rape is a crime,” this writer asked to him during the interview.

He said he found it difficult to report such a case to the nearest police station.

“I have never bothered to report not because I enjoy it, but I fear the consequences. In this country, police officers cannot believe that a man can be raped. They would just laugh at me and make funny comments. Believe me, our society does entertain the idea that a whole grown-up man can be raped. The case can also turn against you,” says Jose’.

In Kawangware, Dagoretti North Constituency, another victim says one of his clients had been chasing him for more than seven months. One day, the client shut the door. She threatened him that she would scream if he refused to do the deed.

Like Jose', he did not bother to report the matter to anyone for fear of becoming a laughing stock.

“I offloaded the luggage and helped her to carry it to the house. Before I could leave, my client closed the door. Things were moving very fast. She undressed. I tried resisting, hoping that she would understand. She threatened [to] scream if I turned down her request,” he said.

Elsie Milimu, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) programme officer at the Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network on HIV and Aids (Kelin), an organisation in Karen, says there is stigma and some norms that prevent men from talking about being raped.

“It is true. Men fear talking about it. I guess this could be the reason some perverts take advantage of them. The law does not discriminate whether you are a man or a woman,” says Ms Milimu.

However, she admits that there is a lot of confusion when it comes to men getting the P3 form at police stations.

“Police officers will go ahead asking a man how a woman raped him while laughing. Most of them at the gender desk in police stations are not prepared to deal with cases of male victims,” says Elsie.

She suggests that it is time for Parliament to review the Sexual Offences Act (2006) because rape does not only affect women. Men are also abused and sexually harassed.

The national chairperson of the Boda boda Association of Kenya, Kevin Mubadi, says he has received several cases from his colleagues. He says the victims are always ready to tell him what has happened to them, but disappear the moment they are advised to report to the nearest police station.

“I have a colleague who operates somewhere near the Supreme Court. He took his client to Kilimani and things ended unexpectedly. It is sad for a man to tell you such stories. Some of us in the sector laugh at him, but I know deep inside we are hurting,” says Mr Mubadi.

His association has taken up the cause and is organising a two-day training session. Facilitators are expected to equip boda boda operators with skills and knowledge on how to say no with a smile.

“I am also encouraging as many of our members to make use of the toll-free numbers available at the Gender Violence Recovery Centre. They can call 0800702565/ 0800702116 and get assistance without anybody mocking them,” says Mr Mubadi.

A senior police officer at Muthangari police station, who requested anonymity, confirmed that he had received complaints from some boda boda riders about allegations of rape.

He says it is not easy to verify such allegations for men compared to women.

“It is true that these cases are reported here. We find it funny handling such cases without a medical report. One of the boda boda riders came here. We asked him to prove his claim with a medical report. He had none,” said the officer.

He advises victims to go to hospital for examination and get medical reports that can be used to pursue such cases.