How MPs, society are failing SGBV survivors

That a legislator is still free despite threats of sexual violence is disturbing

In Summary

• Month of activism has gotten off on the wrong foot due to developments in SA, Kenya

Image: OZONE

Timing is everything, as they say. And I would add the rider that in many cases, to get the timing right, you need to read the room as any good stand-up comedian or even DJ would tell you.

On the eve of the beginning of this year's 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, South Africa’s Department of Correctional Services announced a decision to parole convicted killer Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic athlete jailed for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day 2013.

The decision was taken by South Africa’s Correctional Supervision and Parole Board (CSPB). It will take effect on January 5, 2024 despite Reeva’s mother June Steenkamp writing to the board to say that Pistorious had not shown true remorse.

The law in South Africa gives an offender the right to serve the remainder of their sentence outside of a correctional centre based on specific conditions. 

As far as the law is concerned, this gives the offender the opportunity to reintegrate into the community while under supervision.

I’m no expert on law and won’t venture to argue whether this convict should get parole or not. I also do not have any evidence of his remorse or lack of. All I am saying is that the announcement could have been better timed.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign began on November 25, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and is set to run until December 10, Human Rights Day.

Every year, the campaign calls for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls, and this year’s theme is: “Accelerating actions to end gender-based violence and femicide: leaving no one behind”.

This year's campaign comes as many women and children across Kenya continue to be casualties of a sexual violence war raging in every county.

What is especially troubling is that most of these dreadful incidents took place in the residences of either the victims or the offenders, underscoring the pressing necessity to combat violence within domestic environments.

It also comes in the wake of the screening in the Senate of an extremely disturbing video featuring Tigania East MP Mpuru Aburi threatening Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza with sexual violence and being cheered by his audience during an election campaign meeting.

While addressing a crowd, Aburi, who frankly should be behind bars awaiting trial at this point, said he would use a stick to molest Kawira, while he made all sorts of other vile suggestions.

"Kawira Mwangaza should be told to respect men. Bring that stick, where is it? I have come with this stick replicating the male organ. The stick is for Kawira Mwangaza. This stick is for penetrating Kawira Mwangaza,"Aburi said in the video that was played before the senators. 

“She was slutted by men and became wide. She is only left with this stick as all men have left her. And she will know I usually say it and it happens. Do you want us to insert it inside her?" 

Sadly I was not shocked at the vulgarity and violence of Mpuri’s words as such vicious sentiments about women are all too common in Kenya. However, I continue to be surprised that Mpuri has not been charged. 

This would have been the perfect time to make a high-profile example and show the consequences of such threats of sexual violence.

Speaking of timing, this year, ahead of the campaign, I had the wonderful good fortune of running into the inspirational and brave Njeri Migwe, a campaigner against violence on women and children, whom I have admired from afar.

Njeri is one of the founders and leading lights behind Usikimye, a survivor-centred and trauma-informed organisation working on the prevention and response to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Kenya. 

Usikimye, which has impacted millions of vulnerable Kenyans, saves lives despite a minimal budget. They run a number of programmes, including survivor safe houses and a 24/7 SGBV response toll-free hotline.

Now, if I had philanthropy-type cash, this is one of the organisations I would be backing.

Follow me on X @MwangiGithahu

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