By JOB WERU
CENTRAL; KENYA: The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) is recruiting men to stand up for women under threat of being stripped or harassed for being skimpily dressed in public places.
The organisation has scouted for men to champion the rights of women in risk areas such as bus stops and town streets.
At a workshop that brought together touts, boda boda operators, the media, police and political leaders in Nyeri County, a FEMNET Programme Officer Kennedy Odhiambo said the move was spurred by the increasing cases of touts and members of public taking upon themselves to adjudge women as indecently dressed and proceeding to strip them as a punishment.
The workshop followed an incident at Nyeri Central Bus Station where a young woman was recently stripped for wearing a mini-dress and no underwear.
The incident has since been condemned by the No Stripping of Women Campaign, who collaborated with FEMNET in the initiative.
Odhiambo said although stripping was a criminal act and a violation of the victims’ rights that should be punishable by law, it was important there should be community champions to dissuade people from stripping or meting out violence on women on that basis.
“We want all men and women, including students, to be aware that we are all human beings and end these incidents. We regret the trend has been reported in Nyeri, Kisumu, Naivasha and Bomet,” he said.
Wambui Ngigi, a student and member of the No Stripping of Women Campaign, said the act dehumanises the victims as it robs them of their dignity.
“It has become difficult to reach out to victims because most of them lock themselves up after the act as they are traumatised,” Ngigi said.
During a heated debate at the workshop, it emerged that a section of men may be harbouring pent up anger that leads them to carry out the acts of violence on women due to stress in their families.
Ms Mercy Kamanu, a law student at the Kenya School of Law, said it was immoral and illegal for anyone to strip a woman claiming they have dressed indecently, adding that the Constitution outlaws discrimination.
“It is also sad men who do not support the stripping do not assist the affected women,” said Martins Okwalloh from Masculity Institute.
But in response, Mr Kevin Oganga from Dedan Kimathi University in Nyeri accused women of indecent dressing, which provoke men.