“Violence against women and girls in Kenya as it is in other parts of the world is an aftermath of profound social systems that advance and proliferate it.”-Wanjala Wafula
Women in Kenya continue to suffer after generations of abuse, and a lack of education is at the center of this cycle. Sexual assault, childhood marriage, and genital mutilation are just some of the ways that women are not only robbed of their equal role in society, but also made to feel less than human. These “traditions” are ingrained in the Kenyan culture, which has caused a struggle in suppressing and eventually eliminating these issues. In 2010, Kenya became the first African country to successfully implement a Constitution that advocates explicitly for human rights, and advances the status of women. The Kenyan government has created legislation that protects women through prosecution, and vows to give women equal education. However, these laws are silenced by the resistance to change, and the steadfast belief in cruel actions that date centuries back.
All laws in Kenya are required to abide by the new Constitution, however, there are new laws being created that are resisting this. In 2013, there was an outpouring of support from thousands of Kenyan woman for a girl who was gang raped. Around 1.3 million people have signed an “Avaaz petition” calling for the prosecution of the alleged rapists and an investigation of the police who freed the suspects. The perpetrator’s only punishment being to mow the lawn of the police station, law enforcement often does not take the crime of rape as a serious offense. Events like these spark massive protest, because they reveal the lack of acknowledgement for the new laws that are in place to protect girls that suffer from horrible crimes such as this. If the police do not punish these crimes, there will continue to be an average of 300 reported cases of rape a day in Kenya- not taking into account unreported incidents.
Sexual violence is common in Kenya in large part due to child marriage, which is largely practiced throughout most regions in the country. Almost a quarter of every Kenyan woman will be married before she is 18 years old. Child marriage gives a man legal license to commit acts of sexual violence against girl they are marrying, without paying any cost for their actions. Statistics show that women who are uneducated have a much higher risk of child marriage, whereas women who are educated will most likely marry after their 18th birthday.
The education system in Kenya needs to be able to reach more women, in order for them to step into their full power, and be able to advocate for their own rights. However, even through helping women in these ways- people who are in positions of authority in Kenya, both within local communities and governmentally need to punish those who commit crimes against women. Without enforcement of the law, gender inequality in Kenya will continue to spread, and the abuse of women as a common practice will be only further ingrained as a cultural practice, not a punishable crime.
Image citation: https://www.girlsglobe.org/2015/12/25/five-ways-to-promote-gender-equality-in-2016/