Address patriarchal roots to stop rape culture

In Summary
  • Patriarchy also distorts our understanding of consent...Men often take a “No” to mean “Yes”. It is time to change the narrative
  • Perpetrators choose to rape. Men who do not rape are not special. It is just the way it should be

The World Health Organization estimates that 36-62 per cent of all sexual assault victims are aged below 15 years. Perpetrators of sexual violence are people we know in most cases and often use tactics, such as guilt or intimidation to pressure their victims.

Sexual abuse may happen to anyone, however, people living with disability, children and young women face it more.

Many men see women as objects for sexual gratification, cooks and cleaners who are there to tend to their needs. A man would expect a woman to come back tired from work cook and pamper him and later he will demand sex. Women are often not seen as people who have hopes and aspirations and that’s why men do not understand when women demand for respect.

Many communities in Kenya are patriarchal, hence, children (male and female) are raised differently and this upbringing creates power imbalances among them.

Most young men are socialised to be sexually adventurous and aggressive as a way of proving their masculinity whilst girls are expected to take up domesticated chores and if they happen to deviate from these they risk disapproval as well as physical and sexual violence.

If a woman is raped her credibility is questioned. People blame what she was wearing, for being drunk, agreeing to go out with a man or walking out late. However, a woman’s choice of dress is not to blame for rape; the perpetrators choose to rape. Men who do not rape are not special. It is just the way it should be.

Patriarchy is the reason women do not feel comfortable wearing a dress of their choice, socialising and interacting without fear of being raped. Survivors of rape in Kenya face numerous challenges, including not being believed by service providers and delays at health facilities, police stations and courts.

Patriarchy also distorts our understanding of consent. Sexual consent is very crucial and it means that parties or partners must both agree to engage in sexual activity. But individuals (mostly men) assume that whenever a woman visits them or they offer to buy drinks or food then they must have sex with the woman as repayment.

Men often take a “No” to mean “Yes”. It is time to change the narrative. With the high cases of femicide in the country, we all need to work together to end all forms of violence and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

There are various ways to end sexual abuse, including survivors being believed and not condemned; encourage victims to report attacks; train health providers and law enforcement officers to conduct rigorous investigations for successful prosecutions; create awareness in communities; stiffer penalties for perpetrators and service providers who frustrate rape survivors and further legislation and implementation of comprehensive sexuality education in schools to facilitate equality. Everyone has a role to play in preventing sexual assault.

NAYA youth advocate