Western behavior is clashing with traditional beliefs in Kenya. Some men there have attacked women because of the clothing they wore.
Hundreds of Kenyans marched last month in the capital, Nairobi. The marchers were protesting attacks against women by groups of men. The men claimed the women were targetted because their clothing is too sexy.
The protesters shouted “My Dress, My Choice.” They criticized a video published on social media. The video showed a group of men attacking a woman and removing all of her clothing. The men said the skirt she was wearing was too small.
Protesters said they wanted the men arrested. They then marched across Nairobi’s downtown area to a bus stop where one of the attacks took place.
A leader of the protest said she knew of at least ten such attacks across Kenya. She said there had been attacks in the coastal city of Mombasa, and in Nyeri, in Kenya’s central highlands.
Diana Ross Akello was one of the protest organizers. She told the Reuters news service, “this is a journey of liberation. It is not just about dressing, it is about liberation of women from oppression because what we felt happened to that woman is so wrong and even up to now no one has been arrested. So we want action to be taken. There is a video. Something can be done.”
Several men took part in the protest.
James Wamathai said he was marching in support of women because he believes in equal rights.
He told the Associated Press news agency, “I think it’s really horrible and no woman should have to go through that. It’s a weird sexual fetish. If you see some of the videos some of the men are groping the women. But it’s not based on anything (like religion) because in Africa we didn’t used to wear clothes.”
The protest was a rare public show of support for women’s rights in Kenya. Rarely are people tried there for sex crimes.
But some Kenyans criticized the demonstrators. They want women to wear clothes that cover up more of their bodies. Ulda Akinyi watched the protest last month. She said she has told her three daughters to dress conservatively. She told the AP that “wearing miniskirts is the devil’s work.”
A day after the protest, Kenyan police arrested a number of men suspected of taking clothes off a woman in public. The men said she was not wearing enough to cover up her body.
The woman was taken to a hospital where she received medical care. She was then sent home.
Local newspapers said police had arrested up to 90 men.
Members of Kenya’s parliament criticized the attackers.
Lawmaker Cecily Mbarire asked, “Who defines decent dressing? What are we exposing our women to? These women are your wives, your sisters, your aunties.”
I’m Christopher Cruise.
This story was reported by VOA’s newsroom. Some information for the story came from three news agencies: Agence France Presse, the Associated Press and Reuters. Christopher Cruise wrote this story for VOA Learning English. He also read and produced the report. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
liberation – n. freedom
oppression – n. making others suffer; controlling by the use of unjust and cruel force or power
equal rights – n. something that a person is or should be morally or legally allowed to have, get, or do; often used to describe women and men having the same rights
fetish – n. an object or something thought to have magical powers
grope – v. to touch (someone) in an unwanted and unexpected sexual way
miniskirt – n. a very short skirt (a skirt is a piece of clothing worn by women and girls that hangs from the waist down)
decent – adj. good; appropriate or suitable