Women would rather encounter bears instead of men in forests

The killing of women has wracked Kenya for several years. [iStockphoto]

As a woman, would you rather encounter a man or a bear whilst taking a walk in a forest? Or, conversely, would you prefer that your young child encounters a bear or a man in a forest?

This hypothetical question has plagued social media for weeks now, with women overwhelmingly stating that they would prefer to encounter a bear than a man due to knowledge or prior experience that encountering a man might possibly lead to harm greater than the quick death that a bear would provide.

On the other hand, men have been extremely baffled by this response, and have taken to giving long and detailed explanations on why women choosing a bear over a man is ridiculous, being both insulting to men and generally foolish in their opinion.

Whilst this conversation is predominantly a Western one (the average Kenyan woman needs not worry about being trapped with a bear in the woods), the sentiment behind the hypothetical question is universal. In South Korea, for instance, women are opting not to get married in what is termed as the 4B movement.

As a consequence, the government has offered financial incentives to couples who get married and have children. But in spite of these incentives, kindergartens are reporting record low enrollments every year, and hundreds of them have had to be shut down.

Bringing the conversation closer home, killing of women has wracked Kenya for several years, with a marked increase in 2024. Just last week, 19-year-old Mount Kenya University student Faith Musembi was found dead after being kidnapped. Whilst it could be argued that the reasons behind her murder may not necessarily stem from her gender, her death follows a long line of other women who have been murdered this year, raising possible alarm over whether femicide remains worryingly common in the country.

It is interesting to consider that, for women who, in answering the question of man vs bear, choose the bear, their reasoning behind the same is the fear over the loss of their lives, or other harms to their bodies at the hands of men. On the other hand, whilst for women the fear is death, for men the fear has been that they are being painted in a bad light, as not all men are capable of causing grievous harm to women. These two reactions are wholly imbalanced.

It would behoove men to lay down their defences and pay attention to the overt and covert ways in which women are working to protect themselves. The solution, contrary to what more conservative members of society would argue, is not to take away the hard won rights that women have gained across the years. In the United States, one of the right wing talking points argues for the reversal of the right of a person to file for no fault divorce.

While it is true that divorce, work opportunities and financial security have afforded women the right to walk away from actual or perceived danger much more easily than they were previously able to, the solution to the problem is not to take away these rights. Rather, women and men must come together to address the root causes behind women seeking options that keep them away from men now that they have the financial ability to do so.

On the whole, education in public and private spaces ought to take an approach that reinforces why gender discrimination and violence are harmful to society. Recently, the High Court in Mombasa sentenced a priest who was found guilty of sexual assault of a minor to giving sermons once a month for three years on the importance of upholding the Sexual Offences Act.

If implemented properly, such a punishment would in the process educate a great number of congregants on what the Act entails, and why the protection of women and girls needs to be taken seriously. Perhaps this will be a good starting point, opening the door for other creative solutions that bring men and women together.

-Ms Gitahi is an international lawyer