Deporting Koffi Olomide didn't help the women who fear him

Tuesday July 26 2016

By MUTHONI THANG'WA
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Kenya has become a country of trauma for women, in spite of our best efforts, through the law, to contain gender-based violence or violence related to women and girls.

The violent kick that was directed to a woman who turned out to be a dancer for Congolese musician Koffi Olomide caused shivers down the spine of any woman who had the misfortune, or should I say the privilege, to access social media, where the video was trending.

It is just a few months after a similar video, in which the then pilot for Deputy President William Ruto, a Caucasian man, was caught on camera physically abusing a police officer by roughing her up.

It has not been that long since the skirmish in which Evans Kidero, the governor of Nairobi, slapped Nairobi woman’s representative Rachel Shebesh.

This public, abundant display of violence is worrying and traumatising.

Gender-based violence, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is one of the most common human rights violations in the world. UNFPA is one of a number of international organisations that work to further gender equality and women’s empowerment.

CULTURE OF SILENCE

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also deals quite a bit with gender-based violence because it harms women’s health, maternal healthcare and the spread of HIV and Aids, among other infections.

According to the WHO, gender-based violence, although mainly constituting of acts of violence towards individual women, affects women and girls due to the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators, coupled with the culture of silence and shame, especially when it involves sexual violence.

African countries have some of the highest levels of physical and sexual abuse in the world. According to the WHO, in 2013, nearly half (45.6 per cent) of women living in Africa were likely to experience some form of violence, compared with the global average of 35 per cent.

But still, the kind of impunity demonstrated in Kenya, where cases have been documented on video, in public, that is precisely the reason women’s organisations, governments and other partners have worked tirelessly to ensure that women get the required support and perpetrators are dealt with, hopefully with as much force as the intended acts on their victims.

Men who publicly assault women are psychotic enough to believe their vile ways may stop the contributions that women and girls are making towards national and global development.

DEFYING STATISTICS

It will not, in spite of the fear it generates. Women have fought too hard, come too far and learned too much to allow these dehumanising acts to put them down for long.

But the Kenyan experience sometimes defies statistics. In the case of the DP's pilot and the policewoman, it defies all logic for a supposed professional to walk around perpetuating gender-based violence as a means of communication.

Research shows that violence is perpetuated on women by people they know and have had some association with. In the case of Koffi Olomide’s dancer, such public kicks only create terror. Think of what may be happening behind closed doors.

This violence, both public and private, undermines not only the health and security of women but also their dignity, autonomy as individuals and privacy.

It was a relief of sorts for Kenyan women to learn that the alleged gender-based criminal had been dispatched to his own country, thereby affirming the government’s commitment to national and global efforts to stem this vice.

LACK OF SECURITY

But my question is why the victim was bundled up and put on the same flight as the perpetrator. This is precisely the global terror that violence against women spreads. I am Kenyan, but I cannot help but wonder what fate might befall the girl.

It is sad that in 2016, victims of violence still lack the support to ensure their safety, security and access to justice. It is due to this lack of security, even after the fact, that many women seem to protect their perpetrators.

There are no mechanisms to give even temporary relief from pain and trauma. When such violence is perpetuated by a supposed employer, a fall-back position for a woman to regain her economic footing should be part of basic support in fighting gender-based violence.

Economic marginalisation has been cited, especially by men, as one of the foundations that props up the silence around gender-based violence, including the unwillingness to press charges.

But the price of dignity is way too high to exchange for a couple of hundred dollars or shillings. Economic livelihood is much easier to rebuild than health, self-esteem and dignity. Gender-based violence should be declared a form of terrorism.

Twitter: @muthonithangwa