The pensive look on the faces of the Githurai 44 trio when the death sentence was read was a dark contrast to the one they had had three years ago when they had tormented and humiliated their victim. The Githurai 44 bus crew back then had wielded power in their hands, apparently to the extent of even asking their victim if she wanted to be gang-raped.
If she hadn’t lied that she was HIV-positive, they would probably have carried out the threat. When they were done with her, they wanted her to go home without her clothes. So humiliating was the experience that she did not even want to report to the police. The resulting Public outcry was what had led to the case. Her crime? Being tipsy and remaining a lone passenger after others had alighted.
During the judgment, the three (including a petrol station attendant) looked subdued. The hunter had become the hunted. The only courage in them was perhaps the writing on Meshack’s hoodie. ‘Get your claws’, perhaps urging the court to stretch out its claws and scratch the best they could.
The proverbial cat was down to its last life. The petrol station attendant had even left his job without resigning and ran off to Naivasha after the subsequent arrest of the bus crew.
Their lawyers having skipped the session, they were left to themselves to plead for mercy after the magistrate read the guilty as charged judgment. We have families. One after the other pleading.
But had they thought of that when they did what they did? Would they have liked their wives being taunted about getting gang-raped? Did they think about their families when they wanted the lady to walk naked in public to her house kilometers away? Is that something you would wish on your family member?
The magistrate in his judgment said what everyone thinks about. Most men do not think much about spanking a lady’s behinds. To them, it is an innocent joke, even when you are a stranger to the lady. Men want ladies to learn not to take offense at being touched inappropriately.
If the lady had not reacted angrily to the touch by slapping the driver, perhaps she wouldn’t have slept emotionally and physically disoriented that night. But she chose to stand by her right to dignity and privacy and paid the price dearly. The three had failed to respect the dignity of women, but the court had to.
They were to get 25 years each, which can be enhanced to a life sentence, for the humiliating sexual assault on their victim. What earned them a date with the hangman is violently robbing the lady of her personal effects which she had carried with her.
Robbery with violence carries a minimum penalty of death. Kenya is one of the few countries yet to do away with the death sentence and instead replace it with a life sentence.
Immediately it was announced, social media went ablaze with debates on whether the sentence was deserved or a little bit over the top. That is neither here nor there, they can appeal it within 14 days.
It has opened debate on a topic of sexual assault and harassment of women. The society had long decided that they had more pressing matters to handle. Victims were left to themselves.
Women have for long suffered silently when using public transport in Kenya. Even when the #mydressmychoice battalion came along, they were more interested in their fashion sense than the abuse their counterparts go through.
The catcalls. The inappropriate touch here and there. The rude language thrown at them. All human beings are born equal and die equal and therefore deserve equal respect. If there is a point the judge drove home, it was that one.
There is also a need to enlighten women on how to approach such incidents of abuse. We are a country that runs from you in your hour of need, but women should know how to handle the trauma such that they don’t jeopardize the case should it proceeds to a court of law.
The lady reportedly torched the clothes she had worn on that fateful night to try and forget the ordeal. In any other case, that would have crippled her story and collapsed the case. Public trust in our police force is eroded. It is not surprising the lady couldn’t trust herself with the police. Victims should therefore also be aware of other avenues to explore.
During the entire case, the lady was only identified by her initials. Why? To protect her from further victimization. It is not like the perpetrators were going to break out of custody and trail her down. It is because we are a society that drives a nail through a wound.
Vera Sidika comes out about her abusive boyfriend? We mock her. A girl gets raped? She shouldn’t have dressed that way. Stay in a physically abusive relationship? The victim asked for it. Leave an abusive relationship? They are prostitutes who can’t stay in a relationship. We have mastered the art of blaming victims for being victims.
Kenyans, in their usual manner, will talk about it for a day or two then move on. Ill-behaved men will behave for a month or two. The three have 14 days to cancel their date with the hangman. But whatever happens, the bar has been set. The dignity and privacy of women have to be respected. You think you can jump over it, your call!