In a tweet about the alleged rape of a married woman by her MP boss, Churchill implied that the victim was at fault for meeting her employer at 10.30pm in the first place. The twitterspere responded quickly and castigated Churchill and his comments so effectively that he tried to backtrack and say he was simply initiating a much needed conversation. When that failed he deleted the tweet altogether. I will not copy it here and propagate it’s foul meaning on my platform.
When influential people speak, it matters. Not only do they get others to participate in their line of thinking, they validate the thoughts of those who share their values. Churchill is arguably the most influential man in media today as the presenter of two shows that are number one in their forms of media that is, TV and radio.
Years ago, Thabo Mbeki said he does not believe that HIV causes AIDS; and Jacob Zuma said he washed his penis after sex with an HIV positive woman in an effort to prevent infection. These unfortunate statements give you a clue as to why South Africa is lagging behind in the fight against AIDS despite their wealth. We watched in horror as our Nairobi Governor allegedly slapped the Nairobi women’s representative; and months later when women were stripped in the same city, it is a lazy thinker who did not connect the violent dots – Nairobi is a violent place for women. Churchill might not be President or governor but his callous joke does nothing to remind people that women are autonomous beings with the same constitutionally accorded freedoms of movement and association as men, regardless of the time of day.
This country does not need another conversation on rape per se. We have talked about the horrors of rape, what it does to victims, their families and the community at large. We have acknowledged women’s bodily rights in law, and Njoki Ndung’u bill saw to it that violators are jailed suitably.
What is lacking is the belief in women when we report rape cases. Churchill’s tweet celebrates this unbelief, forgetting that the victim’s character and moral fibre are not up for scrutiny; and indeed even prostitutes can be raped. Victim shaming has long been a part of the rape prosecution landscape, and this is true in many countries. In Kenya, only five per cent of rape cases are actually prosecuted, making it and corruption the two crimes that are easiest to get away with.
Churchill’s comments were careless and in very bad taste especially given that he has such a large sphere of influence. I hate to single my colleague out but I really wish he had chosen to point a finger at the alleged rapist for taking advantage of his position of power. I wish he had pointed out how difficult it is for many women to work with male bosses, especially when the job entails long and unothordox hours. I wish he had highlighted the challenges that many women deal with silently because they cannot resign their jobs whimsically. Churchill, my friend, there is still time to deal with this differently.