The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR), an initiative of 43 organizations working across 23 countries in Africa, strongly condemns the act of violence committed by Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero against Nairobi’s Women Parliamentary Representative, the Honourable Rachel Shebesh. A video of the incident that took place on Friday 6th September 2013 has received wide media coverage in Kenya and clearly shows Governor Kidero slapping the Honourable Shebesh at City Hall-Nairobi. Subsequent statements from Governor Kidero and his office indicate that he did not recall the altercation and further claimed that his action was warranted by indecent assault by Honourable Shebesh.
Reactions to the video on social media platforms further demonstrate a gross lack of respect for women.
Several persons have stood by Governor Kidero’s actions and suggested that Honourable Shebesh “got what she deserved.” As Saida Ali, Executive Director of the Coalition on Violence against Women (COVAW) notes, “It is unacceptable to use violence against women in any context, especially as a means of conflict resolution by leaders. It is deplorable that such violence has been normalized such that some members of the society believe certain situations justify the use of violence against women. This should be cause for alarm for the government, and relevant authorities should take action to undo the normalization of violence.”
Violence against women is not acceptable. Moreover, as an elected representative of the people, Governor Kidero has to adhere to a higher standard of integrity and accountability as per Chapter Six of the Kenyan Constitution and should not engage in such despicable acts. Kidero violated his duties under Chapter Six of the Constitution which oblige him to exercise his duties in a manner that “demonstrates respect for the people, brings honor to the nation and dignity to the office; and promotes public confidence in the integrity of the office.” The Bill of Rights further protects the right to respect for dignity, and the rights to freedom and security of the person, including the right not to be subjected to any form of violence. Sections 144 and 250-253 of The Penal Code provide additional protection against this type of violence, outlawing assault and indecent assault on women. “By sending the message that it is acceptable to strike women, Governor Kidero has undermined the values embodied in the Constitution and condones violence against women” states Faiza Mohamed, Equality Now Nairobi Director.
Kenya has ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (“the Protocol”) which requires Kenyan authorities to “protect women’s right to dignity and women’s rights to life, integrity and security of the person.” Article 4 of the Protocol also explicitly makes clear that States must “enforce laws to prohibit all forms of violence against women” and to “punish the perpetrators of violence against women.”
Kenya is also a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which similarly require Kenyan authorities to protect all women from violence and to punish perpetrators of violence against women. These treaties require Kenya to guarantee women the right to integrity (African Charter article 4), the right to liberty and security (African Charter article 6, ICCPR article 9(1)), the right to respect for dignity (African Charter article 5), and freedom from discrimination which includes violence against women (CEDAW article 1).
SOAWR therefore calls on:
i. His Excellency The President of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta to publicly condemn the act of violence by Governor Kidero against Honorable Shebesh and by so doing demonstrate to Kenyan women and men that his government is fully committed to addressing all forms of violence against women..
ii. Dr. Evans Kidero to relinquish his duties as the Governor of Nairobi.
iii. The Kenya Police and Director of Public Prosecutions to speedily investigate and institute criminal charges against Governor Kidero.
iv. The Kenyan Government to actively enforce all its law and policies and ensure that it actively addresses and reverses the normalization of violence against women through campaigns and programmes throughout the country that seek to challenge and eliminate cultural norms and stereotypes that justify violence against women
About the SOAWR Coalition:
SOAWR is working to ensure that the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa remains on the agenda of policy makers and to urge all African leaders to safeguard the rights of women through ratification and implementation of the Protocol.
Members of the Coalition:
BURKINA FASO: Voix de Femmes; BURUNDI: Collectif des Associations et ONGs Féminines de Burundi; CAMEROON: Women’s Advocacy and Communication Network, Women Peace Initiatives Association; DJIBOUTI: Union Nationale des Femmes de Djibouti; EGYPT: Association of Egyptian Female Lawyers; ETHIOPIA: Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children; THE GAMBIA: African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies
GHANA: African Women’s Development Fund; GUINEA: Cellule de Coordination sur les PratiquesTraditionellesAffectant la Santé des Femmes et des Enfants; KENYA: African Women’s Development and Communication Network, Coalition on Violence against Women, Equality Now (Secretariat), Ipas Africa Alliance for Women’s Reproductive Health and Rights, FAHAMU Networks for Social Justice, Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya, Oxfam GB, Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance, Tomorrow’s Child Initiative, Women Direct; LIBERIA: Women of Liberia Peace Network, Women NGO’s Secretariat of Liberia; MALAWI: NGO Gender Coordination Network; MALI: Association des JuristesMaliennes; MOZAMBIQUE: Forum Mulher; NAMIBIA: Sister Namibia; NIGERIA: Alliances for Africa, BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, Human Rights Law Service, Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternatives; SENEGAL: Inter-African Network for Women, Media, Gender and Development, (FAHAMU Networks for Social Justice); SOUTH AFRICA: People Opposing Women Abuse, University of Pretoria Centre for Human Rights; SUDAN: Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA); TANZANIA: Legal and Human Rights Centre; UGANDA: Action for Development, Akina Mama waAfrika, Centre for Justice Studies and Innovations, Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women, (SIHA), Uganda Women’s Network; ZAMBIA: Women and Law Southern Africa, Women in Law and Development in Africa; ZIMBABWE: Girl Child Network