Secondary school sexual violence
The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. One of the key targets of the 2030 agenda is – Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
This will remain a bullet agenda point unless we consider what has happened in the past and use the lessons learned to shape action. In Kenya, we are famous for the apparent ease with which we forget past wrongs. People can perform the most ghastly acts but these are soon forgotten and we ‘move on’. Although I do not believe we should wallow too much in the past, there is grave danger in forgetting, especially when we choose to learn nothing from our past experiences.
Take sexual violence against girls in boarding secondary school…….
August 2015, 40 boys from St Patrick’s Boys High School had walked 6 kms to raid a girl’s dormitory at Sing’ore Girls High School. The boys had one thing in mind – they were going to rape the girls.
This took me back to 1991…….
The school in Meru, now known as St. Cyprian Boys Secondary School was then, a mixed boarding school known as St Kizito. In July 1991, the boys wanted to go on strike because the administration had denied them money to go on a sports event. The boys wanted the girls to join the strike, the girls refused. In the dead of the night, these teenage boys cut the power line to the girl’s dormitories and used stones to break in. During the ensuing chaos, the girls locked themselves in the only dormitory that had grill windows. They thought they would be safe. The boys broke the doors and the girls trying to get away from the boys, pushed themselves into a corner. The boys dragged out as many girls as they could and raped them outside the dormitory.
The boys had managed to scare the watchman. Some teachers managed to sneak out of the school and ran to the police station to get help. The police officers said they had no fuel for their vehicles – they did not bother to go and help. The girls were on their own.
In the morning, 19 girls lay dead, suffocated by the mass of others trying to get away from the boys. A total of 71 girls were raped that night.
The deputy principal, Joyce Kithira, was quoted by the paper as having told President Daniel arap Moi, when he visited the destroyed dormitory: “The boys never meant any harm against the girls. They just wanted to rape.”
Fast forward to August 2015, according to The Daily Nation report ….
The boys allegedly told police that they visit Sing‘ore girls once a year, particularly during the cold season, in a practice that dates back to the 1980s.
“The students in Form Four pass the mantle to their juniors once they complete their secondary school education,” said a police officer.
This story caused a mere ripple in the media – after all no one was hurt. Unlike St Kizito, the watchmen at Sing’ore Girls High School were able to attack the boys. They were not of the mentality of the St Kizito era and they were not letting the boys get away with it.
The media did not bring back the story of St Kizito. In fact, I had to use a link from the New York Times to re-hash this story – so well have we forgotten the girls of St Kizito!
Yet to me – the two stories have the same underlying theme. I remember the stories doing the rounds in 1991 after St Kizito, that the girls were asking for it. No one denies that in boarding schools there is always a tiny group of girls who will have sex with a willing boy in the neighbouring school at a whim. The boys who raped at St Kizito got an STI – and people were like, ‘see, those were bad girls!’ – again, implying the boys were justified in their rapes.
Fast forward August 2015…..
The boys from St Patrick’s were carrying condoms – some girls had asked them to come over for the night. ‘See, those girls were bad, they were asking for it, they knew what was coming.’ Never mind that it’s the boys claiming the girls were asking for it….
It is extremely worrying that much was made about a few boys carrying condoms than the fact that a gang of 40 boys were headed to a girl school to rape!
The words of the deputy head teacher at St Kizito in 1991 are so alive……..
“The boys never meant any harm against the girls. They just wanted to rape.”
24 years since St Kizito and some boys think it’s fun to rape fellow schoolmates….
Don’t place the blame fully on pornography- there were no internet cafes or smart phones in Meru in 1991 – you can be sure those boys were not influenced by that.
There was an inquiry – Nyayo style – into the St Kizito tragedy – someone remind me what came of it?
In 2015, I wrote an article in the Daily Nation about blaming the rape victim.
I never want to read about such stories again, near misses like Sing’ore Girls High School or not – no one ever asks to be raped – least of all a teenage girl lying in her dormitory room far away from home. How can we not protect our girls?
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