A section of women leaders from Garissa now want the National Government to enact laws that would bar the use of Maslaha (alternative dispute resolution mechanism) to settle rape and other extreme violence against women.
Speaking during a women leaders’ forum at the Garissa University on Tuesday, the Garissa Branch Chairlady, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO), Habiba Ali said that rape is a very serious crime under the Kenyan law and Maslaha should never be used in resolving such cases.
The forum organized and funded by MYWO is part of the World Women’s Day celebrations that were celebrated, Sunday March 8.
“Rape against women is traumatizing to the victim and in most cases the victims contemplate committing suicide. Punitive punishment should be meted out against those found culpable,” Habiba said.
“We refuse and condemn use of Maslaha as a form of alternative dispute resolution mechanism in some of the cases as rape cases within our communities,” she added.
Habiba said the government should ensure that any elder found to be promoting Maslaha in rape cases and other retrogressive cultural practices that undermine the dignity of women should be prosecuted.
“We respect our culture. But when some elders misuse the same for personal gains as opposed to seeking justice for the victim, then as women leaders we are opposed to it. The victim is never part of the negotiation during Maslaha,” she noted.
“The victim is left to suffer and, in most cases, becomes traumatized because of being ridiculed by the community. This sometimes leads to suicide,” Habiba said.
The North Eastern Region MYWO Chairperson, Zahara Shurie, said that women should be respected and earn their place in society while men should be responsible of taking care of their families.
Zahara said that Muslim men should marry a maximum of four wives as the Quran prescribes but must be able to provide for them equally.
Yusta Farah, asked the County Executive to allocate more funds to the youth and women deparment to ensure that programmes geared towards promoting women and youth programmes in the society are implemented to improve their welfare.
Yusta said women have in the past been treated as ‘second class’ citizens and denied the opportunity to contest political posts.
“Things are now changing and we urge our male counterparts to support us in pushing for gender equality, noting that Ijara MP, Sophia Abdi Noor is a role model to many women aspiring for political seats,” she said.
The celebrations were preceded by a procession by women leaders and Garissa University students through the streets of Garissa town that ended up at the Garissa University.
By Jacob Songok