I was going to write a long story about my experience with black-on-black racism on my travels with a white friend in Nigeria. I can assure you that it was a woeful tale indeed, one which ended in tears. But the only thing I will say is this; Africans are still slaves to the white socio-political economy, and until we emancipate our minds from the notion that self-worth can only be measured in degrees of whiteness, we will remain in chains.
I wish I could choose just one pair of shackles, but the gruesome killing of Sharon Otieno has shown that for women in Kenya, the struggle is legion. I cannot even begin to comprehend the condemnation with which Sharon has been treated in death.
What should have been an outpouring of grief quickly became a cesspool of bitter judgement. The choices that Sharon made in life should never have been on trial, but that has not stopped the assassination of her character to the point that she has now died twice, and both times were more brutal than any human being deserves.
Scrolling through comments on social media, I kept asking myself; when did a woman’s body become a crime scene? And why are women always the accused? Sharon was raped. Sharon was strangled. Sharon was stabbed eight times. Her unborn child’s first and last contact with this cruel world was the sharp edge of a blade.
All these things were assaults on her person, and that of her unborn child. Assaults perpetrated by others. In which universe then, can the blame be redirected to the personal, non-criminal choices that she made in life? The answer is none. Not even in this sick society where some men (and women) can attempt to justify such a horrific act on the basis of a woman’s sexual choices.
I don’t know what’s more depraved; that a man would rape and kill a woman heavy with child, or that so many men and women one assumes are reasonable, would put her death to one side, and instead focus on her sex life. It really is beyond belief. And it really is of no consequence if Sharon was sleeping with a man, his son and their pet chihuahua.
It should make no difference whether she was a sex worker or a professor, a second wife or a lesbian, an aeronautical engineer or a shoe shiner, bisexual, transgender, or intersex, a governor or a college student, a mother, daughter, or an ex-wife. No woman, man, or child deserves to die a death so grim.
This anger that we have witnessed towards Sharon, from young men in particular, is misplaced. Sharon is not the problem. The problem is men in the older generation. They are swimming in their sons’ dating pool, emasculating these young chaps with the power of their wallets. If anything, this is the true breach of tradition; that a man would entertain the affections of a woman young enough to be his daughter, and that a son would compete for a wife with this father.
And this is not to diminish the atrocities that were visited upon Sharon, but to counter the vitriol that has been directed her way. At the end of the day, men and women make choices. They decide who to welcome into their beds, and who to keep out. Those decisions are personal and should never be the subject of public debate. Morals cannot be legislated. Laws on the other hand – for as long as they remain in force – are absolute. And therefore, murder, if so proven in Sharon’s case, is the only offence here. Extortion, entrapment by way of pregnancy, or whatever it is that we imagine Sharon’s crime to have been, are not defences to murder.
The discussion around the morality of her life choices is an indictment on Kenya as a society, and the attitudes we have nurtured towards the sanctity of women’s lives. A woman’s body is not a crime scene. Women cannot stand co-accused for assaults against their persons. Men cannot not be allowed to visit horror on the female form without the threat of absolute consequence.
And every voice that rises against a woman in her victimhood must be silenced. As a final thought - and this I direct to all the woman-hating, anti-abortion hypocrites - it is the utmost sacrilege to desecrate the body of a woman who is carrying a child, because that is a desecration of life itself. I don’t hold brief for the creator, but I hope to God that she will judge, and that she will judge harshly.
Ms Masiga is Peace and Security Editor, The Conversation Africa