It all started with a video on youtube. Hollaback! and Rob Bliss Creative collaborated in creating a video to show how women were harrassed in the streets of New York. In the video a lady walks round the city’s streets and is harassed by different men with one even walking next to her for over 5 minutes trying to strike up a conversation.
After the video went viral the conversation moved closer home and people took to social media to discuss how prevalent street harassment of women is in Kenya. “Street harassment is any action or comment between strangers in public places that is disrespectful, unwelcome, threatening and/or harassing and is motivated by gender or sexual orientation or gender expression. In countries like India and Bangladesh, itâ€™s termed â€œeve teasing,â€ and in countries like Egypt, itâ€™s called â€œpublic sexual harassment.â€” via Stop Street Harassment
From the conversations on social media it is clear that street harassment is as prevalent in Kenya as in other parts of the world. The debate on women feeling safe in public and private spaces has been ongoing for a while now and this just helps to show how much unsafe it feels for them.
“Street harassment is so common, so normal that most women have come to accept it as a way of life, despite how offensive, infuriating, violating and demeaning it is for them.” wrote one Kenyan woman in her blog post a few months back.
You might be foolish to think that the harassment in these public spaces is confined to touts or the unemployed but that is not the case. Even men in flashy cars or those expected to be more knowledgeable and educated seem to be in on the act. The worst part of it is that these incidents happen in broad daylight, as much as they do in the evenings, and as narrated by most victims the public does not do something about it. Instead in some instances, as indicated by the blog above, some men even join in in insulting the victims.
The question now remains as to what can and should be done to stop street harassment and make these perpetrators more accountable. The first step, in my opinion, would be to educate men to understand what is street harassment and create public awareness campaigns, as was intended by the video, to show how prevalent it is in the country.
We collected some of the conversation on street harassment in Kenya and they can be read below.