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Passaris leads protest against sexual violence days after Miguna slur

Early this morning, Nairobi was painted purple with tens of people marching to protest the rising cases of sexual and Gender Based Violence.

Carrying placards bearing #silentprotest as the flagship message, and wearing purple t-shirts, the activists walked from Uhuru Park’s Freedom Corner to the Jeevanjee Gardens.

At the head of the march was Esther Passaris, who a week ago was caught in the thick of misogynistic and sexual slur during a national television broadcast.

A week ago, Nairobi gubernatorial aspirant Miguna Miguna told Passaris on live TV hosted by Jeff Koinange, “Esther you are so beautiful, everybody wants to rape you.”

TV show host, Jeff Koinange (centre), businesswoman Esther Passaris (left) and lawyer Miguna Miguna. FILE PHOTOS
TV show host, Jeff Koinange (centre), businesswoman Esther Passaris (left) and lawyer Miguna Miguna. FILE PHOTOS

Speaking later at Jeevanjee Gardens, Passaris asked victims of rape and gender based violence to speak out against the crime as they are not to blame.

“GBV has nothing to do with the victim. Not the way they dress, not the way they walk or the way they talk. With this protest, we are calling the people of Kenya to speak out loudly,” she said.

The protest was organised by the Nairobi City County and the Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) conveniently, three days after the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence Campaign, and three days to the World AIDS Day.

November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women, from whence the 16 Days of Activism is organised to December 10, the Human Rights Day.

As the guest of honour, Kizzie Shako, a forensic clinician and a police surgeon with the Nairobi County, noted that it is not only women, of whom there are about six cases reported every day, who fall victim but also boys and men.

“Last month only, I handled about 30 cases of sodomized boys, and three and four cases of adult males. We must teach boys and girls to have autonomy of their bodies; we must not keep silent anymore.”

DON’T KNOW THEIR RIGHTS

Dr Shako added that most victims of sexual violence do not know their rights, and the first thing they do after the ordeal is to ‘wash away the shame’. “Never take a shower or wash the clothes. That is erasing the evidence.”

But also, most people do not know the first thing to do after such an ordeal, or their rights.

Thus, AHF had organised with The Kenya Legal & Ethical Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN), who had set base at the Jeevanjee to offer people free legal advice.

The AHF Kenya project development manager Faith Ndungu feels that law is not enough to address GBV and sexual violence: “Despite the progressive laws and policies currently in place, patriarchal attitudes and misogynist practice render laws and policies meaningless in the lives of many rape survivors. We want to change that.”

HIV INFECTION

Ms Ndungu quoted recent research findings indicating that in Kenya 14 per cent of women aged between 15 and 49 have experienced sexual and gender based violence, with 11.5 per cent women experiencing both physical and sexual based violence.

The Kenya Demographic and Housing Survey (KDHS) 2014 also show that 47 per cent of women have gone through either physical or sexual based violence.

“In order to address rape survivors’ vulnerability to HIV infection as a result of having been raped, Kenya has assented to Sexual Offences Act which protects both men and women. However, even with the laws in place, the rate of sexual and physical abuse in the increase,’’ she said.

Passaris also feels that the government has failed to address the issue both by putting sufficient mechanisms and by way of funding.