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Citizen Weekly

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


On Monday the 23rd of March, 2015, the Nation carried a story about a woman who was allegedly raped by Imenti Central MP Gideon Mwiti.
The story is itself a brutal trail of events; she says she had been conducting business with the MP at his office when he allegedly attacked her, reportedly forcing her to have a HIV test before he had his way with her.
After the fact, he denied even knowing the woman, but admitted that he knew her after he was pressed. That is, of course, strange. The woman knew you. Her husband knew you. You were clearly conducting business. Why would you deny knowing her?
Of course, once this story broke on social media, many people missed the point. Some asked what a woman was doing in a man’s office at 10 pm.
Is rape allowed after nine pm, and was she therefore asking for it? 
What was she doing in his office, you ask – well, what was he doing?
Others pointed out that her husband must have been oblivious. Again, irrelevant. Every woman is a human being, and should be able to go wherever she wants to, whenever she wants to.
A wife is not a possession to keep tabs on, for you to wait for her to report home every time she leaves. Nor is she a slave. In any case, her husband knew exactly where she was.
One of the most disappointing comments I read was from Churchill, or Dan Ndambuki, Kenya's most famous comedian.
Churchill has represented Kenyan comedy at a past opening ceremony of Big Brother Africa. On his Twitter account Churchill wrote:
#justaskin...So a MARRIED WOMAN agrees to meet a honorable MALE MP at 10:30 pm?...ALONE?...
You can see how that unfolded here. He later tried to defend himself, then took down the tweet and moved on to talking about his performances scheduled for the weekend.
Unfortunately, by then, Kenyans on Twitter had seen the tweet, including writer Binyavanga Wainaina, who was apparently later blocked because of hotly demanding an explanation for Churchill's comments.
Other than the obvious flaws in his comment – no one should be raped at anytime, anywhere and no one deserves to be raped – blaming the victim is not what you are supposed to do in such a situation.
How can the reaction be ‘what was she doing’ instead of ‘what was he doing’? I am sorely disappointed in Churchill.
Churchill is an extremely high-profile public figure – most people identify him easily, on radio and in person. He is known for Churchill Live on TV, as well as the Kids Festival.
This is a man who is a huge influence on the Kenyan public and Kenyan children whose minds he is shaping as a public figure, yet he is victim-shaming.
You can't blame the victim when sexual assault occurs unless you're ignorant, and even then it should not be excused.
How many people has he won over to this awful way of thinking? How many young minds who look up to his success story have changed the way they look at assault because of what he said?
How many monsters has he endorsed?
Later on, Churchill apologised on Facebook and on Twitter. But I feel the damage has already been done. Many people already think like this, and thinking like this, just to clarify, is wrong.
I think Churchill should do more than just apologize.
As was apparent from the people who asked silly questions on social media, we exist in a rape culture that is encouraged and allowed to perpetuate itself. There is a desperate need for people to stand up and call for action against rape culture.
Rape culture is what makes people say things like 'she was dressed inappropriately' or 'where was her husband? ' or 'she wanted it'.
That is wrong. We cannot allow or endorse rape, or sympathise with its perpetrators! Churchill needs to use his influence and his celebrity to condemn rape and sexual assault.
Maybe this is something he should start a festival for. Or perhaps a civic initiative that goes across the country just like his festivals and shows do.
Because until people in power start to speak truth, nothing will change; a Facebook apology will be forgotten and we will move on to blaming the next victim.
In a patriarchal system, the men are the ones with the power – especially the men that others look up to. The successful ones. The ones on TV.
As a deeply concerned citizen and as a woman who is affected by assault every day on any Kenyan street because men feel entitled to my body, I urge Churchill Ndambuki to take a bigger stand than a Facebook post – a stand that has actual, recognisable impact.