About women being stripped…
In 2013, We had a series of Sensitization Meetings With Touts, Drivers and Boda Boda Operators In Nyeri aimed at raising awareness on the Illegality of Stripping Women Naked. We had in depth discussion on the Provisions of the Constitution, The Penal Code, and the sexual offenses act that sought to Protect Women against such violations. During the Plenary, One Conductor rose on his feet and pointed to a young lady in the room who wore a long dress, He confidently concluded as thus;
“This is the only Honorable, Decently Dressed Lady in the room, by wearing a long dress she has shown us respect, She has shown the elders respect, She has respected what we believe in, She knows Her Place, She is not embarrassing us like most of you Have done, Why do you want to show us thighs that belong to someone else, If you want to wear tight jeans, Wear them for your Husband, in the House”
With that He walked out amidst Heroic Cheering from all His Peers. I knew,at that moment,even with all our legal discussions on women rights Protection, we had achieved nothing. The People we were trying to reach out to, to engage with on behalf of all the women, Had taken a stand, It was not wrong to strip women Naked. Their stand was Justified and grounded in law, Their law, in existence for years, Culture and Cultural Practices.
Let us Interrogate the Conductor’s Popular Assertions;
“ …This is the Only Honorable, Decently Dressed Lady…”
He is, with authority able to define what is decent or not, according to Him and Many like Him, being decently dressed amounts to wearing a long dress. He has the authority to pick out, Isolate and conclude on what is decent and what is not Decent.
“…She has Shown us Respect, She Has Shown the Elders Respect, She Has Respected what we believe in …”
His reasoning stems from well Known and set Standards.These standards of Decency have existed for long, the authors of the set standards are also identified. There is an expectation on the part of the woman to be aware and to adhere to those set standards.
“…She Knows her Place, She is not embarrassing us like most of you …”
His Reasoning again is grounded on a set and agreed upon code of conduct. There is an expectation on the part of the woman to understand her limits in terns of how she can dress.How far she can go. In addition, there is an expectation on the part of the woman not to embarrass ‘us’.
“…Why do you want to show us thighs that belong to someone else, If you want to wear tight jeans, Wear them for your Husband, in the House…”
His Fact is-Ownership. He contemplates a situation whereby a woman can be free to express herself by showing skin or wearing tight pants, however such acts of expression must be supervised, under the authority and consent of somebody else, not just anybody, it has to be a man,In his own time and space, for his delight and pleasure. Only Him.
I remember- sadly so- the Nyeri Incident one year ago the lingering questions were;
why were you there?
why were you dressed like that?
why were you dressed in clothes meant for ladies of the night?
why were you not well dressed?
and most disturbing, How would you like us to help you?
No Acknowledgement or at least ‘appreciation’ of the fact that she was stripped naked!
No acknowledgement that indeed a crime had taken place contrary to the law!
No acknowledgement of the fact that she was a victim and deserving of Police Protection.
The Law enforcement agencies summarily dismissed the whole affair by rounding up the touts and urging them to ‘Try to their level best to refrain themselves from touching other people’s things’
Its the same response everywhere! for can you explain to me why a lady can be assaulted within the city, at the Premise of very well known Bus Company and no action is taken, not even arresting the hooligans for touting!
That, Ladies and Gentlemen is How culture has defined Woman and Her dress Choice, In this regard women are only subjects, recipients and beneficiaries of cultural rulings. The Greatest Tragedy Herein is that the fluid nature of our cultural practices allow for constant interpretation and amendments which up to now receives little or no female Input. For Instance, Our Grandparents in their wisdom defined Decent as to cover only the Private Region, this became practice-Practice fuels and validates Culture- Their children decided breast and thighs to be evil and indecent, Women had to cover up, today a conductor defines decent to include a maxi dress covering arms and the neck, willing or not, we practice it, maxi dresses then become law!
Such Practices have groomed women to belief that they have no capacity and control over their bodies especially their vaginas and dress. We have been programmed to accept that our bodies unless controlled by ‘systems’ can result in dangerous and fatal occurrences. We are devils if not controlled and or managed.
That our bodies have to be controlled and managed in an institutional setting such as marriage or the religion.It then becomes easy to attack ‘unowned’ women.such women are rogue. Their vaginas have no owner. It does not matter how successful they are,their positive contributions to economic development do not matter,they are simply whores who climb the corporate ladder while on their backs. Sadly most women have accepted and resigned themselves to such perceptions. Women miss out on remarkable opportunities because they fear being identified by their vaginas and breast, and the related ‘potency’ .A woman’s worth is thus defined by how low she creeps and how silently she moves about lest she provokes society to view and shout,
“woman, who do you think you are, do you think we don’t know you have made it this far by sleeping with all the men around”
No one questions the standing of these men she sleeps with, why? They are doing their job,exercising some form of control and enjoying related user rights over the female form.
Women need to understand that it will matter-Less, what they can offer from neck up, all cumulative skills and capabilities will more often than not be on one side of the weighing scale, the other side of the scale will be their panties and vagina,oh unto you if your skills out weigh your bean. In this Regard I conclude Woman,just do your best, the best way you know how,your vagina is a bonus.
With all these Empowerment initiatives geared towards improving the fortunes, why then do we have an alarming of women violations? Keeping in mind that culture thrives through Practice let us Interrogate this Example;
More Women Now are making efforts to be in control of their sexual reproductive rights through the use of Family Planning methods and even asking their partners to use Condoms. They are doing it with or without Consent. They do not need male approval to swallow a pill. More women are thus not getting pregnant without planning for it,whether married or not. This is especially true in My Central Kenya. This then brings forth a shift from earlier set norms as far as women reproduction rights are concerned. Women are, through their individual circumstances forcing change and in turn fueling Practice.I and Many of My Friends will follow the same route. My Daughters too.Their daughters…
Women are loudly upsetting set beliefs and Practices, they are doing it without Consent! They cannot be easily stopped for they have Laws and NGO’S on their side, everybody is fighting for them! Any chance or opportunity to remind women of their place and the ‘sherias” they have abandoned will not be missed. More Women Stripped, More daughters Defiled, More Wives Killed for attempting to raise their head. We are at loggerheads; Standing at the Red Corner, Women with modern day legislation and empowerment Initiatives and on the Blue Corner The Conductor backed by his forefather’s Wisdom…
However, We cannot undermine culture and its relevance Today, Don’t we rush off to the village to demand for the congregation of elders to haggle over our bodies in ‘Ruracio’ Ceremonies. Ruracio Validates us, giving us bragging rights to the day we held men for Ransom even though we did not have rights to the negotiations.We must incorporate the authors of culture and cultural practices- Men- we must encourage them to practice respect for women and their dress choices, evening re-defining what is decent and what is not. We must strive to consultatively revisit the very Basics Of Female Existence, the fact that she is a person,A human Being who surprisingly can decide basic stuff on her Own, for instance Dress. I know its a painstakingly long Journey, unnecessarily even, but when has women empowerment processes been easy,or short,or even easily available?
In my village, if a woman tells a man she has two breasts, the man will say “What Nonsense” A woman’s words are believed when the sun rises, can we have them listen to us, what and who we are, for the sun will surely rise, and then they will believe us!