Saturday, November 29, 2014

Women and politics in Kenya

This story caught my attention. Kenyans do tend to be socially conservative. It is not the first time that women have been attacked for their dress. I think that one issue is this is a matter of men keeping women in their place. I also think Rachel Machua's analysis is more or less reasonable. I think the AP title is incendiary, and sometimes I wonder at the trivialization of African politics by the Western press. 

Apparently, several protesters gathered in downtown Nairobi on Monday to protest against the last video posted online that shows a mob of Kenyan men surrounding a woman who is - according to them - provocatively dressed, and stripping her naked. Rachel Machua considers the recent attacks as the result of socio-economic conditions, where lower-income men attack successful and well-dressed women. About 10 percent of the protesters were men, marching because they believe in equal rights in Kenya, a country where women play an active role in the society. Other men, however, believe that "wearing miniskirts is the devil's work", and that they don't want "Kenya's women to seduce them by wearing revealing clothing". ( Kenya women march for right to wear mini-skirts by Associated Press, The Washington Post, November 17, 2014.) 

Patrick Gathara makes some decent points in a recent article. The 2010 Constitution really expanded the rights of Kenyan women, but getting men to respect them is another. 

Gathara analyzes the demonstration which occurred in Nairobi in support of a woman who had her clothes had been stripped off by a group of men. He says the focus has been on the tension between women's rights and a societally prescribed morality, but not a lot has been said on "how it illustrates a residual fear among some Kenyans of the consequences of respecting individual liberties". In 2010, the country has issued a progressive constitution, but its implementation has revealed to be harder than expected. (Kenya's fear of liberty by Patrick Gathara, AlJazeera, November 20, 2014) 

Thanks to my wonderful GA, Paola Cavallari, for doing the research that helps me stay on top of things. 

I am sorry for my extended absence. My beloved sister, Wangeci Bowman, died last year around this time. It has been a rough year. She was an amazing woman with Kenyan roots. She would have cheered her sisters on in their protest for women's rights.