Close

UNDER SIEGE

Why 2019 has been a tough year for women

From crimes of passion to public harassment over babies or lack of and FGM advocacy, the woman has been under siege

In Summary

• A look back at some of the tough moments women endured this year

Ivy Wangechi, who was hacked to death by a stalker who claimed to be her boyfriend
Ivy Wangechi, who was hacked to death by a stalker who claimed to be her boyfriend
Image: COURTESY

This September marked the first anniversary of Sharon Otieno, who was seven months pregnant and was allegedly kidnapped, raped and then killed.

Sharon was having an affair with Migori Governor Okoth Obado and was expecting his child. 

Obado's personal assistant Michael Oyamo was arrested for questioning in connection with the murder. 

 
 
 

After five months in custody, he was released alongside Migori county clerk Caspal Obiero by Court of Appeal Judges William Ouko, Mohamed Warsame and Otieno Odeck on cash bail set at Sh1 million each. 

The judges stated there were no compelling reasons to continue keeping Oyamo and Obiero in custody as they waited for Sharon and her baby's murder trial.

The two had previously been denied bail by High Court Judge Jessie Lessit.

Obado, who is still Migori Governor, had been arrested but was released on a Sh5 million bond.

Despite the murder shocking the nation, on social media, Sharon's death sparked victim-blaming and debate that shifted focus to transactional romantic relations between older men and younger women.

The nation has since witnessed an endless string of crimes of passion.

When Ivy Wangechi was hacked to death by her childhood friend Naftali Kinuthia, a popular local radio station ran a segment mocking her death.

 

Wangechi was killed while walking to her hostels from school a few days before her 25th birthday and a few months to her December graduation.

 
 

In June during Madaraka Day celebrations, Nairobi woman representative Esther Passaris walked out of the podium as Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko made a speech at Pumwani in protest at his remarks.

Responding to her concerns on why he does not respond to her calls, the governor said he was not her husband to answer her calls all the time. He claimed she wanted to create enmity between him and the women of Nairobi.

Later during an interview with Citizen TV, Sonko alleged Esther had been demanding money from him since she was elected in 2017.

He went on to add she had invited him to her hotel room. The interview was cut short after the governor declined to stop speaking ill of her. 

CHILDLESS SHAMING

Sonko was also engaged in a bitter social media spat with Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo, in which he attacked her over her childless condition.

The exchange was sparked by the governor's remarks over the matrimonial life of the late Kibra MP Ken Okoth.

Sonko criticised the MP for saying he was wrong to have meddled in the late Okoth's personal life, accusing her of having a 'weird' marital life and no moral authority to lecture him on matters of marriage. 

He also accused her of hypocrisy for her actions supporting absentee fathers.

After Odhiambo accused Sonko of using Okoth's memorial service to earn cheap publicity, he said she could not understand the pain of single mothers because she was childless.

"I am longing for the day you will open wide your legs to give birth to a child so that you experience the pain that the mothers I am defending go through," Sonko posted on his Facebook page. 

"You must respect those single mothers who struggle with their kids as men go missing."

In August, Kwale woman representative Zuleikah Hassan was kicked out of Parliament for bringing her baby to work.

Hassan, 39, said she took her five-month-old baby girl Mwanabaraka to work after failing to get childcare, which would normally have meant she would have to stay at home.

The incident, which happened during World Breastfeeding Week, highlighted a lack of equal representation for women in Parliament.

It also highlighted a lack of workspaces that accommodate breastfeeding or child care needs for women. 

ELUSIVE GENDER BILL 

The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment Bill), 2019, also known as the Gender Bill, has been to Parliament and failed due to low turnout. It would have facilitated the enactment of the two-thirds gender principle.

Last month, the Senate Legal Affairs and Justice Committee said the Gender Bill is retrogressive and infringes on the political rights of the public.

The Nandi Senator Samson Cherakey-led committee added that the impact of the current crop of women nominated to the two Houses is yet to be felt.

The remarks were made in its annual report tabled to Senate annually. It also added it will be needless to add more women to the two Houses of Parliament.

The committee argued that women have come of age and can compete in elective politics and win as the men do.

It based this on the fact that during the 2017 general election, three women senators and governors were elected.  

The bill, which is the fifth one since the promulgation of the new constitution in 2010, is co-sponsored by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo and his nominated counterpart Senator Haji Farhiya Ali.

It proposes to amend Article 97 of the Constitution to give effect to the two-thirds gender principle through the creation of special seats, which will ensure the gender principle is realised in Parliament.

LEGALISING FGM

In October, a three-judge bench began hearing a case by Dr Tatu Kamau, who is seeking to have Female Genital Mutilation legalised in Kenya.

Kamau also wants the Anti-FGM board to be disbanded and the prohibition of FGM be declared unconstitutional.

She argues women have a right to choose whether they want to go through the process and prohibiting it infringes on their freedom of choice and also prevents them from practising their culture.

The doctor adds banning the practice is imposing Western culture on Kenyans, and that circumcision is different from mutilation. She said mutilation involves completely chopping off a body part.

Her case will be resume before Justice Lydia Achode, Margaret Muigai, and Kanyi Kimondo next Tuesday. 

Despite Kenya having progressive laws and policies, a lack of implementation has seen women and girls continue to face discrimination. 

According to Equality Measure 2030, the impact of legal and policy frameworks on the lives of girls and women, however, has been undermined by weak implementation and a lack of gender-responsive budgeting.

It adds that pervasive discrimination and cultural norms have influenced women’s land tenure and participation in labour markets, child, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation, food security and nutrition, and access to finance and technology.

Many girls and women still lack access to basic services, and women remain under-represented in decision-making positions and political leadership.

Edited by Tom Jalio