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Set up sex offender registry to address rape pandemic

OPINION
By Isaac Kalua Green | June 13th 2021

Two sisters who were raped by their father in a period of four months.[Mumo Munuve,Standard]

Last month, a man in Limuru gave two schoolgirls a lift. They got in, probably pleased that they would reach their destination faster, and more conveniently. After dropping one of them, he drove to a bush and raped the other. Instead of dropping her at her destination, he dropped her into lifelong agony. He brutalised her and violated her human dignity.

Jackie Robinson, the great American baseball player once said that, ‘the most luxurious possession, the richest treasure anybody has, is their personal dignity.’ Tragically, in Kenya and indeed all across the world, women are deprived of their dignity in all manner of ways that increasingly hinge around sexual violence in workplaces, learning institutions and diverse locations.

According to a counsellor from a UN-sponsored gender-based violence hotline here in Kenya, during the Covid-19 pandemic, ‘women have been violated like never before.’ This violation has pushed many of them to commit suicide, which leaves me convinced that buried within the Covid-19 pandemic, is a silent pandemic of violence against women as a whole and rape in particular. As such, we must give voice to this silent pandemic.

Last year in July, Health Chief Administrative Secretary Dr Mercy Mwangangi voiced this silent pandemic, “The country has witnessed a 7 per cent increase in the number of all forms of violence incidents from March to June compared to a similar period last year. It is worse in some counties and children below 18 per cent bear the greatest burden as they comprise 70 per cent of the 5,000 survivors with 5 percent being male.”

Almost one year later, anecdotal evidence suggests that this violence, especially sexual violence lingers on. Just recently, university students staged a demonstration in Nairobi demanding an end to rape culture. Thousands of miles away in the UK, Warwick University students were also protesting rape culture on their campus.

These students from two different continents are right in spotlighting rape culture, and not just the physical act of rape. You don’t have to be a rapist to perpetuate rape culture. Rape culture is an environment that normalises and excuses sexual violence. According to the UN Women, rape culture is prevalent. It’s ‘embedded in the way we think, speak, and move in the world. While the contexts may differ, rape culture is always rooted in patriarchal beliefs, power, and control.’

In 2014, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics together with other national and international institutions produced a report that revealed shocking sexual violence statistics.

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According to the report, 14 per cent of Kenyan women and 6 per cent of men aged 15-49 had experienced sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. Given the severity of sexual violence during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, this figure is undoubtedly higher.

I recently held a conversation with my wife, sister and daughter to better appreciate their own insights on this. The consensus was that most women experience some form of sexual harassment at some point.

Accordingly, we end up disregarding sexual violence because the consequences are not dire. This is how a rape culture is born. In a recent trip to the US, I came across a strategy that can greatly aid us to end the rape culture. In its own fight against rape, the US leans on the sex offender registry, a public list of all sexual offenders in US States.

It includes the offender’s physical appearance, address and criminal history. All this information can be accessed through the National Sex Offender Public Website. Besides, awareness creation on the subject is well managed at all levels. Kenya needs to publicly name and shame sexual offenders.

But most importantly, every Kenyan must uphold the dignity of the great women in our society. They are our pillars and they simply deserve our best. For this to happen we must think green and act green!

 

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