By NAIROBI WIFE
In the Saturday Nation on the 29th of April, a story ran on sexual harassment at the workplace and how three women dealt with it. Some kept quiet about it; others went to their bosses while some took a less civilized stand and reacted, violently.
The thing with sexual harassment is that it takes place every day, absolutely anywhere.
In the same paper, under ‘Man Talk’, the issue of groping women was brought up. The narrator’s friend was grabbing a woman and she asked the narrator to ask him to stop.
The narrator did just that, and he was mortified that his friend could stoop so low. He said that under the influence of alcohol, one’s true, unrefined colours emerge.
I boarded a matatu on recent morning on my way to work, and due to my rotund belly, I could only sit up front with the driver. It was a 14 seater, so the space at the front is also limited, forcing me to squeeze myself to keep from interfering with the driver and his gear changes and to let my fellow passenger have space as well.
ELBOW ON MY HIP
The man that sat next to me, a yellow-yellow with bad teeth the same shade as his complexion, immediately took the newspaper that was on the dashboard and proceeded to read it like he was in the comfort of his home. He had placed his elbow on my hip, successfully turning me into his armrest.
I did my best to move and try to shrink my mass in case this was my fault, but after a while I decided to let him know that he was causing me discomfort. I told him to move his arm and what followed, I did not see coming.
“Kwani unadhani nina haja na wewe? Unataka niwache kusoma gazeti? Wewe unaweza kutoka ukae nyuma ama usonge huko. Kwani unadhani wewe ni nani ati nikuguze?(Do you think that I want you? Do you want me to stop reading the paper? You can also go and sit at the back or you move there. Who do you think you are that I would want to touch you?)” spewed from his nasty mouth.
Mark you, he boarded the matatu long after I had already sat there, he could see what he was getting himself into.
I was left shocked, wondering why he would say such things, yet I had asked him very well to move his arm. The driver intervened and asked what the issue is and I explained that he had his arm on my hip and he could easily hit my bump and hurt me. The driver was sympathetic and the passenger adjusted his position.
In the newspaper article on sexual assault, one of the women interviewed said that in her mind, she had always known that she would raise hell if any man tried to touch her inappropriately, even possibly to the point of getting violent.
When it actually happened, she could not even react, she froze and hoped no one had seen. I felt the same; that I would hit a man where it hurts most if one ever tried to get too fresh with me, and that is below the belt. But I ended up just using my pregnancy in my defense.
NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE
I wanted to tell him off and say that he should know people. All I managed was to tell the driver to educate his friend on courtesy and not to mouth off any time it suited him as I alighted. I did not want a further confrontation. At the very least, I did not suffer in silence.
Men, must we find faults in ourselves to excuse your behavior? Why must we be afraid to speak up when you do something that is absolutely inappropriate?
As mentioned earlier, alcohol can bring out the worst in people, but what about when they are sober? What can we blame on then?
Men, please style up. Women, do not be afraid to speak up. It’s not your fault.
This letter was originally published by Nairobi News