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September 24, 2018

Rape is not always Violent

Friday night found me in Nakumatt buying groceries at 10pm. I don’t know the supermarket I was in too well so I soon roped in one of the attendants to help me find what I wanted.

As we were testing out light-bulbs, I looked at the news stand and saw the Nairobian’s horrible headline about fathers having sex with their underage daughters.

The headline sent a chill down my spine – here is the rape of little girls by the men who should be first in line to protect them and the editor irresponsibly termed it ‘sex with underage girls’.

Does the Nairobian not understand that ‘having sex’ inherently requires the consent of both parties and that children cannot consent to sex? My attendant and I continued shopping, and I was visibly upset so I explained that the dangerously misleading headline has upset me because you cannot have sex with an underage girl; you rape an underage girl.

He did not immediately jump on my bandwagon of fury and this confused me. I asked him if he thought it was rape and he said, "No I think the fathers just ask and the girls say yes." I then asked what he thinks rape is and he said, "Rape is violent or there are threats… some force is involved."

I asked him what he would do if his father called him right that second and asked him to come home and he said he would go. I said, "Here you are a grown man with your own job, and when your father calls you home, you go without asking too many questions.

So what about when you were six. What did you do when your father asked you to do something?" He laughed and said, "I obeyed because I respect him.That is how I was raised."

A second later, his face changed and he said, "Oooohhh wana abuse power!" The conversation continued with me explaining that you do not always need a gun to your head to perceive a threat or the fact that you do not have a choice.

When the person who is asking you do this strange thing is your father and you are a four, six or 12 year-old-girl, you do what they ask. When that thing is sexual intercourse, you might think it is weird and it will fill you with self-loathing, but everyone says that you must obey your elders so you do.

That headline made me sad. The story quotes research recently released by the Gender Violence Recovery Centre, which shows that about 17 per cent of girls in Rift Valley, Coast and Central province are being raped by their fathers.

They believe that the statistics represent all of Kenya, and that worries me. As you go about your day, count five women. If 17 per cent of us Kenyan women survived rape by our fathers, that means almost one in those five women you just counted is a rape survivor.

One in five women when she was a little girl had the worst kind of violence meted out against her for no reason other than she was female – a violence that might have even seemed like favouritism or a special ‘father-daughter bond’ to an un-keen observer. It may look like fathers can ‘have sex’ with their little girls but that is simply not true. A child cannot consent to sex, let alone incest.

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