By Faiza Mohamed
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)is a particularly disturbing phenomenon which exists in all regions of the world and Kenya is not an exception.
In Kenya, it manifests itself mostly in private spaces by persons known to the victims, mostly women and girls, escalating from time to time depending on the security of a given area with perpetrators taking advantage where lapses exist.
In the recent past, however, there has been outright escalation of this threat in the public spaces specifically in Public Service Vehicles (PSVs).
It is as though with increased attention to apprehend perpetrators of SGBV in homes and schools, this scourge has reared its ugly head in even more public spaces such as modes of transport mainly matatus and buses.
Last week, we were shocked by the incident reported in the media of a matatu driver in Molo sub-county in Nakuru county, who “regularly raped his passengers”!
While we welcome the news of the arrest of this despicable driver, and further applaud a recent court decision that sentenced the driver, his conductor and a petrol station attendant to 25 years each in prison for sexually assaulting female passengers, more needs to be done to permanently address this social vice.
We want more awareness raised regarding the illegality of such acts as well as severe repercussions administered to those in breach of the law.
We would like women and girls across Kenya to be aware that they have the support of the relevant institutions including the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) giving them the courage to speak up and speak out against matatus perpetrators.
We would like the violated women and girls to have a point of contact, a phone number or an App that allows them to reach out for help should they be victim or be witnesses.
It is for this reason that we as Equality Now, a women’s rights organisation, with the support of NTSA, launched a campaign dubbed ‘Nganya Safe-Safe Matatu’ for women and girls.
This campaign is part of our activities within The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence and seeks to make PSVs safe for women and girls.
We hope to do this by having open and deliberate conversations with the drivers, conductors and passengers.
We hope to ensure that everyone on that matatu disembarks with the knowledge that they can speak out against any violation and to know that they have the support of legislation such as the Sexual Offences Act, NTSA, the Kenya National Police Service and the womens’ rights movement in the support to fight SGBV in public and private spaces.
The writer is Africa office director, Equality Now