Photo: Daily Nation
Most times, the victims are not in a position to decide whether what they have suffered is usually sexual harassment (file photo).
By Pauline Kairu
Most women have experienced sexual harassment or even encountered sexual jokes by those around them.
A recent survey released by ActionAid revealed widespread harassment of young women with as many as three quarters (74 per cent) of Kenya’s young women reporting which they had come face to face with sexual harassment from the last six months.
According to a brand-new study, young women aged between 14 as well as 21 are living in fear of unwanted sexual advances, both physical as well as right now increasingly on the interweb.
Social media, where the uncouth behaviour seems to have spilt over uninhibited according to the report, has exacerbated the problem.
Seventeen-year-old Grace Achieng*, a high school student by Nairobi, told DN2 which she cannot count the times she has had uninvited comments thrown her way by strangers in public places.
“People working in public transport seem to have a proclivity to This particular behaviour. I can’t recall the many times I have heard “wewe ni size” (a phrase with sexual connotations commonly used by men to harass women, meaning, ‘you’re my size’) said to me at bodaboda stations or bus stops,” she says.
This particular gets worse, she adds: “I have been tapped inappropriately by men on crowded streets pretending they were just squeezing themselves through the crowd. This particular is usually a prevalent problem, This particular seems, because I’ve seen as well as heard friends say a tout touched them inappropriately while ushering them into a matatu.
This particular gets worse if you go to the open air market. Men there think they must touch or grab your hand for you to look at their wares. If your response to their action is usually hostile, then even more lewd things will be yelled at you. Most girls my age will understand what I’m talking about.”
Ms Barbara Muthoka, a university student recalls her shock when an elderly man squeezed her breast as she went about her business at Kariokor Market in Nairobi.
“I could not believe This particular, partly because This particular was an old man, the age of my grandfather. I remember I stood in front of him, angrily glared at him as well as to my dismay, he just scoffed This particular off as well as looked at me as if to say, ‘so, what will you do?’ There were various other men, nearly his age, as well as I looked around to see if any of them might call him out, however they all just looked on as if what the old man had done was normal. I felt so vulnerable!”
Groping, catcalling, negative comments about a girl’s appearance, sharing explicit (e.g. naked) photos online, sexual jokes about girls, wolf whistling, sexting, upskirting (taking a photo up a girl’s skirt), as well as being forced to kiss someone, were some of the behaviours mentioned by participants from the survey.
however for Ms Muthoka, the assault has defied physical confines, leaping onto social media platforms where sharing of offensive material has become routine, as people get a virtual platform to say things which they might not ordinarily say in person.
“I have often had to delete obscene material by my cell phone as well as warn a classmate or contact by sending me such things, however sometimes they just keep sending them until I block them,” she says.
She reckons which a national dialogue regarding sexual harassment on our social media ought to be encouraged.
Ms Jane Godia, an editor at The African Woman as well as Child Feature Services, who provides services to girls who have been victims of such indecent acts, says the issue runs deeper, as well as lack of sex education in schools as well as general community awareness are major contributors to This particular moral decay.
Most sexual harassment cases the organisation handles, she notes, are perpetrated by older men on girls who are young as well as defenceless.
“The behaviour violates the girl’s dignity, as well as she ends up feeling humiliated, degraded as well as threatened,” Ms Godia notes. She adds: “The cases we have dealt with often involve someone who has more power, like an older relative, a neighbour, a stranger, or even teachers.”
The young girls, she adds, are often weak as well as lacking the ability to control the dynamics. “Most of them don’t even possess the capacity to make informed decisions,” she says.
While there are policies which penalise sexual harassment in public spaces, many cases are still under-reported. According to Ms Godia, This particular is usually the prerogative of the person on the receiving end to decide whether the indecent acts are offensive.
Many times, however, the victims are not in a position to decide whether what they have suffered is usually sexual harassment. This particular results in situations where most cases go unreported, thus normalising the behaviour.
No outright evidence
“The problem has become so entrenched in society which even though acts like catcalling are proscribed by the Sexual Offences Act (2006), reporting as well as getting a prosecution is usually a big challenge. In most cases there’s no outright evidence of sexual harassment.”
She says because of This particular, many cases go unreported as well as perpetrators carry on unchallenged. She, however, adds which the organisation has been working with police officers to try as well as put in place mechanisms which make the process of reporting easier as well as safer for victims.
According to Ms Godia, the problem is usually with the society. “Are we as a society ready to deal with This particular problem, which in most cases, is usually usually the genesis of more serious sexual crimes like defilement as well as rape? which is usually the question we need to ask ourselves as a community.”
According to the international survey involving Kenya, the UK, India as well as Brazil, three quarters of the respondents claimed to have been exposed to some form of sexual harassment from the same period.
The study involving 2,560 young people aged 14 to 21 years, as well as aimed at uncovering when as well as where exposure to misogyny begins, as well as how widespread experiences of sexual harassment are during adolescence, found which girls in Kenya were the most likely to face harassment, with 74 per cent saying they had been exposed to This particular from the last six months.
Girls in Brazil, India as well as the UK followed at 64, 57 as well as 48 per cent, respectively.
UK-based charity, ActionAid, which commissioned the survey, found which girls in Kenya were the most likely to encounter inappropriate sexual behaviour.
This particular study highlights the prevalence of misogyny in young people’s everyday lives, as well as shows how sexual harassment is usually a global phenomenon, blighting the daily lives of young women as well as girls.
The survey, was carried out from the aftermath of the ‘Me Too’ as well as ‘Time’s Up movements’, both worldwide campaigns carried out in recent times to shine a light on the sexual harassment women face in their daily lives, as well as to try as well as get the relevant entities as well as government to act.
ActionAid’s study was conducted by Ipsos MORI, on its behalf between December 18, 2018 as well as January 20, 2019.
Two thirds (or 68 per cent) of young people, both male as well as female surveyed, believe which the planet is usually a more dangerous place for girls as well as young women than for boys. The young people of both sexes also said they had seen, heard or read about celebrities or various other well-known people portraying women in a negative or offensive light.
The research found which potential influences on attitudes to women as well as girls start by an early age.
At least two-thirds of younger participants between 14 as well as 16 years, both girls as well as boys, have witnessed misogynistic behaviour such as negative comments about women’s appearance or sexual jokes about girls by those around them — by family members as well as friends to strangers or teachers.
Social media continues to be a damaging influence, where more than half (55 per cent) of young people questioned across the four countries have seen or heard women being portrayed in a negative or offensive way through social media from the last month.
Participants said females are significantly more likely than males to have seen This particular type of negative portrayal on social media (55 per cent versus 39 per cent). The percentage is usually higher by 62 per cent among females aged 20 to 21.
They said awareness of the negative or offensive portrayal of young women increases with age.
Interestingly, even though most of the various other behaviours were considered unacceptable, the most likely behaviour to be considered acceptable was ‘sexting’ with three in ten (30 per cent) stating This particular. This particular rises to 42 per cent among 20-to-21-year-olds.
While nine out of 10 young people believe upskirting or being forced to kiss someone is usually unacceptable, young men are significantly more likely to find various other behaviours such as groping or sharing explicit photos online acceptable, said the report.
Fifty-all 5 55 per cent of young people, both male as well as female)questioned across the four countries, have seen or heard women being portrayed in a negative or offensive way from the last month.
At least half of the youth said they had witnessed sexual jokes as well as negative comments about young women’s appearance doing the rounds on social media.
“This particular research shines a worrying spotlight on how many young people witness or experience sexual discrimination as well as harassment. We know by experience which misogyny is usually not trivial. This particular happens because of deep-rooted beliefs which see women as well as girls as worthless, which their bodies exist to exploit, as well as control,” Girish Menon, ActionAid Chief Executive, said.
The 85 per cent of young people who have witnessed sexual harassment from the last six months think which wanting to impress their friends, thinking This particular might be funny or believing This particular’s ‘what men do’ were the most likely reasons for the behaviour.
Apparently the young men from the study said ‘they might think the person might find This particular complimentary or be pleased they found them attractive.’
In Kenya, a significantly higher proportion (45 per cent) felt This particular might be because they had seen similar behaviour on social media.
On the upside, confidence in reporting sexual harassment is usually high among This particular generation though. In Kenya, 64 per cent of those who have been harassed from the last six months might feel comfortable telling someone. In fact two-thirds of them have already done so.
Awareness creation is usually the answer
Young people, according to the research, predominantly believe education is usually the answer to This particular problem. Overall, 80 per cent support education as the way to tackle harassment of girls, backing educating boys in schools about how to treat girls as well as educating girls in school about how to report harassment.
They also feel which educating teachers about taking accusations seriously as well as educating parents is usually critical.
To try as well as empower girls about the subject, Ms Godia’s organisation started out what This particular refers to as ‘the speak out boxes’ in schools, where if they are afraid to speak out, then girls possess the option of writing as well as depositing their complaints from the boxes, which have three padlocks, whose keys are separately kept by the school administration, the school chief monitor as well as a local organisation working in This particular area of social work.
“All three parties have to be present to open each of the three padlocks to the boxes,” says Ms Godia. “This particular way, the girls are assured which their information is usually safe as well as they will not get reprisals by the school administration if, for instance, the person they’re reporting about is usually a teacher.”
Unfortunately, the box-programme, which was initiated three years ago, is usually currently only available to a handful of schools in Western Kenya, where cases of sexual assault are common.
According to Menon, “from the countries where ActionAid works, we support local women’s groups who work with entire communities to challenge these societal norms as well as educate women as well as girls about their rights.”
To make real progress, Ms Menon says, “we need a uniformed, properly resourced approach to tackle the unbalanced power relations which prioritise male privilege as well as perpetuate gender inequality. We want women as well as girls globally to be empowered to say ‘My Body is usually Mine’.”
Forms of sexual harassment
3. Boobs grabbing
6. Wolf whistling
7. Explicit photos
8. Forced kissing
9. Sexual jokes about girls
10. Negative comments