How your actions, speech encourage rape culture - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 4 July 2020

How your actions, speech encourage rape culture

Kenyan protesters march towards police headquarters in Nairobi on 31 October 2013 to deliver a petition demanding justice, after men accused of gang-raping a schoolgirl had to cut grass as punishment/ COURTESY

She remembers vividly the day her uncle forced his way into her room and tried to rape her.  

Speaking to the Star, Allice (not her real name) said her parents and sister had all left home and she was alone when he showed up. 

"I was sitting in my room when I heard someone try to open the door and before I could understand what was happening, he was standing in front of me," she said.

He told her that they were going to have intercourse and that she should not resist.

"I tried to beg him not to do it and told him to remember he was my uncle and I was younger than him. I had never had sex before and I was really scared because he said he would become violent if I resisted." 

As he tried to grab her, she fought her way out of the room and ran to her aunt's house next door. 

"I was crying and screaming for help and when I got to the house they were home and I told them what happened," Allice said. 

To her surprise, the family asked her if she had seduced him because she was only dressed in a t-shirt and told her she should forgive him because he was family.

"I learned that this was not the first time he had tried to rape a relative, he had also done it to my elder sister and I was forbidden from reporting because of shame to the family," she said.

According to UN Women, rape culture is widespread and rooted in the way we think, speak and move in the world.

Additionally, while the contexts may differ, rape culture is always rooted in patriarchal beliefs, power and control.  

"Rape culture is the social environment that allows sexual violence to be normalised and justified, fueled by the persistent gender inequalities and attitudes about gender and sexuality," they said. 

To dismantle rape culture, UN Women urges societies to examine their behaviours and beliefs for biases that permit rape culture to continue. 

From the attitudes we have about gender identities to the policies we support in our communities, we can all take action to stand against rape culture.

Some of the ways recommended to dismantle rape culture include creating a culture where consent is mandatory and freely give.

"Rather than listening for a 'no' make sure there is an active 'yes'," they said.

Also speaking out against the root causes of rape which include buying into the ideas of masculinity that see violence and dominance as 'string, and 'male' and that place less value on women. 

"It is also underpinned by victim-blaming, an attitude that suggests a victim rather than the perpetrator, bears responsibility for an assault. When discussing cases of sexual violence, a victim’s sobriety, dressing and sexuality are irrelevant.

Instead, counter the idea that men and boys must obtain power through violence and question the notion of sex as an entitlement," UN Women said. 

The organisation also encouraged people to stop victim blaming and rape-affirming beliefs embedded in language.  

These include: boys will be boys, she was drunk, she was dressed like a slut, and women say 'no' when they mean 'yes'.  

"It is normalised by objectifying women and calling them names in pop culture and media," they said.  

Establishment of policies that have zero tolerance for sexual harassment and violence were also encouraged. 

"Leaders must be particularly clear that they are committed to upholding a zero-tolerance policy and that it must be practised every day," UN Women said.  

The women's organisation also said it’s important to recognise that rape culture goes beyond the narrow notion of a man assaulting a woman as she walks alone at night. 

For instance, rape culture encompasses a wide array of harmful practices that rob women and girls of their autonomy and rights; such as child marriage and female genital mutilation.  

"While no one may disagree that rape is wrong, through words, actions and inaction, sexual violence and sexual harassment is normalised and trivialised, leading us down a slippery slope of rape culture," UN Women said. 

"Rape is never a funny punchline. Rape jokes delegitimise sexual violence, making it harder for victims to speak up when their consent is violated."

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