From Nairobi to Belfast, Women March to Claim the Streets as Their Own

By Chantelle Frampton, Lifestyle Editor, @frampy_93

Nearly 1000 women took to the streets of Nairobi on November 17th in protest of the recent ‘slut shaming’ incident that was filmed and shared on the internet.  The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, was stripped down and beaten in broad daylight by dozens of men for ‘tempting them’ by wearing a mere miniskirt.

This repulsive act led to a mass protest in the city of Nairobi, as well as a viral social hashtag of #mydressmychoice.  The My Dress My Choice campaign demands a woman’s right to wear whatever she pleases without the fear of male harassment or violence. The Kenyan President, William Ruto, called the incident “barbaric” and stated that Kenya is not in fact a primitive country and that these attackers must be brought to justice, urging the woman in the video to come forward.  Rachel Shebesh, a Kenyan politician, has gone on to say that “”When it comes to violence against women, there are no grounds for tolerance and no tolerable excuses. I hope that investigations will be carried out and the culprits charged for assault.”

Conservative Kenyan groups have countered this campaign with the misogynistic statement of “women must dress appropriately.”  The female protestors took to the streets with their banners and miniskirts in an attempt to destroy the oppression that is being forced upon them.  They seek to embrace their womanhood and show Kenya that sexual violence will not be tolerated.

Not all people have welcomed the protest and feel that Kenya is becoming too ‘Westernised’ and that women should have respect for themselves.  The counter social media hashtag ‘#NudityIsNotMyChoice soon emerged with people voicing their opinions on the Feminist campaign.  With opinions like “Nudity is a form of sexual violence. #NudityIsNotMyChoice” being tweeted, it is clear that there is a definite split between those that want equal female rights and those that reject such an idea.

A petition has been circulating since the emergence of the filmed attack entitled ‘Violation against Women Will Not Be Tolerated’.  The petition has 4000 signatures and continues to gain more as the social media hashtag gains more recognition around the world.

Sexual violence and harassment is not an issue that is only occurring in Africa.  It is a prominent problem within our own society.  On the 29th November the Feminist organisation Reclaim the Night organised a march in Belfast to raise awareness of street harassment and gender violence.  The organisers state “We march to demand our right to be free from the fear and reality of rape, street harassment, stalking and all other gender violence that can affect anyone, with women and members of the LGBTQ community particularly impacted.”

Women and men marched through Belfast with anti-violence statements such as “harassment is not a compliment” and “My Body My Choice.”  Women of all backgrounds were out supporting one another showing that we are all together with one common objective.

Inequality and violence is a huge issue for women around the world.  With regular protests and a call for women’s rights and harsher punishment for crimes such as rape and assault, one can only hope that these protests will become a thing of the past and women will in fact be able to dress how they please without the threat of being attacked or publicly ridiculed for the satisfaction of men.

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