The rots in our society Is a reflection of who we are as people, the values we nurture and the things we hold dear. Unfortunately women and girls continue to bear the brunt of societal vices. I want to speak specifically to the subject of rape and sexual violence that is not only widespread and seemingly adopting new faces but also that discussions that emerge from this tragedy are worryingly dynamic in all manner of ways.

We currently stand at 1 in 3 women, will or have experience violence in their lifetime, what is more problematic about rape and sexual violence is that victims’ predicaments go beyond the moment they are physically raped to after the rape. They are forced to deal with victim blaming answering to all manner of insults and even the audacity of some people bringing in the pleasure discussion within such a horrific context.

We might want to ask ourselves some very serious questions, because let’s face it, we are part of this society that so happily condones rape, watch in silence or simply legislates about rape at all levels , including the United Nations security council against violence without so much as enforcing them laws.

Starting with a society that nurtures misogyny and perpetuates injustices in both blatantly pronounced and at the same time the most subtle ways. We daily listen to talk shows that sexualize women and reporting that is done in a manner that does not uphold the respect and dignity that women and girls. Every time a reporter concludes by saying” ooh and did you see how that guy punches like a girl, or aaah, we are now cry babies like little girls, is one stamp added onto the postcard undermining girls and women.

We at all times condone other forms of violence against women and girls because they are deemed subtle and only hear of public outcries when it is rape or murder. Why is this the case?? Because we have institutionalized violence and refused to single out those negating the rest of us to bystanders and onlookers in the cycle of violence!!!

I am outraged, you might ask why but the truth is; it is not just the 1 in 3 women who will be violated in her lifetime that makes me mad, but the culture that refuses to take the conversation beyond the rape or beyond the length of the skirt. The conversation needs to ruffle feathers and speak about treating women in general. When a girl /woman is blamed for being drunk, wearing provocative clothing (I wonder who decides that!!!) to what time she was out at night after being raped speaks a lot about us. At what point do we lose the point of the rapists action, intentions and his taken for granted privilege??? I will tell you when, the point where dealing with the rapists perspectives and actions is confronting our societal iniquities!!!!

In Kenya, during the post-election violence after the 2007 elections, approximately 876 women and girls were raped, but in the ongoing cases, even though the case files might mention the rape, the reporting talks more about other crimes and not the sexual violence. As we currently popularize the #EndRapeKE hashtag in Kenya, in the DRC 48 women will be raped in 1 hour and the current news is that infant rape in the same country is also on the rise.

The rape and sexual violence conversations are discussed soberly in public after incidences such as stripping in Kenya, or when a high profile personality such as Member of Parliament is accused. This is also to add when a public figure is seen to be victim blaming! This is all very well and noble, but we must go beyond the conversation of the particulars of the current rape. We must seize the opportunity to defend that girl or woman who will be raped in rural Africa but it will not get to the news because the rapist is not an MP, nor did the TV or media personality or comedian blame the victim because no one knew about it!!

We should seize the opportunity to speak about the need for all adolescents and young people to access comprehensive sexuality education. This will ensure that we have a society that understands the core principle of human rights, need to respect each other including women and girls and uphold gender equality, address and understand societal power relations and inter play between men and women. The same education teaches about consent and safe sex negotiation skills. The plus for this is that when we have the rape or sexual violence discussion, it will be a sombre discussion, we will move forward, we will do the topic the justice it deserves.

Finally the rape discussion opens the pandoras box of post rape care, but earlier as you learnt we are more keen to blame the victim as opposed to attend to her needs. I highly doubt that we have given the discussion of post rape care the attention it deserves. Women who are raped should have access to post exposure prophylaxis and emergency contraceptives within 72hours to prevent HIV infection and pregnancy respectively. The subject of rape also opens the discussion of access to safe abortion for women who do not access emergency services within 72hours and become pregnant. This makes the discussion much more dynamic introducing the angle of women’s reproductive health rights. At the level of governments and constitution, this is a highly politicized debate, but now you see the need to expand the rape discussion beyond the comfortable confines we have been having it. The comprehensive post rape care should also include psycho social support for victims.

The rape discussion is one that I hope will be given the attention it deserves, not because a Member of Parliament has been accused of rape but because it is weighty conversation. One we must have if we are to confront our demons and challenge power structures that perpetuate a culture of violence or condone victim blaming because dealing with our brothers, fathers, uncles, teachers, leaders, doctors and others amongst us as rapists is such a Herculean task. The conversation revolves round women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, right to choose, who to have sex with, consensual non-violent sex where their rights are respected and their voice is heard.

Catherine is a Mandela Fellow 2016, Women Deliver Young Leader and member of Youth RISE International working group. Catherine is a passionate young African feminist activist with over 7 years of experience in advancing gender equality, youth development and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of sustainable development through movement building, digital and social media, policy advocacy and capacity building for young women and adolescents girls. Catherine is currently Deputy Director at Dandelion Kenya, and sits on the SDGs Kenya Forum coordination committee. Catherine has engaged with various global and regional policy processes such as ICPD Beyond 2014 review, Beijing +20 and the post 2015 development agenda. She co-authored the article ‘Leave No One Behind; Will African Women be left behind in the post 2015 development agenda ,an article published on the East African Business Monthly in February 2015. Catherine launched the #SRHRDialogues, an online advocacy and awareness raising platform on SRHR and #YAFDialogues, an online platform anticipated to be a permanent mobilizing platforms borne out of an African feminist dialogue 2015 in Accra. Follow her on Twitter: @catherinenyamb1

Subscribe to our mailing list