NAIROBI, Kenya Jul 12 – Veteran female MPs and a civil society organisation advocating for greater participation of women in politics have complained over bullying on social media of female candidates participating in next month’s General Election.
Concerned Women on Violence during Election (COWVE) consultant Roseline Odede now wants the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) and the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission (IEBC) to punish the perpetrators of the virtual violence against female candidates.
“There is a lot of sexual innuendos; there is a lot of negative speech against women on the social media and mostly it is about their integrity and sexual orientation. We feel that there is a different standard being applied for men so that women are subjected to a higher standard, they are expected to be more moral and more virtuous than the men; I think that’s unfair and we want to ask the people to desist from doing that; please give women equal space to contest,” Odede explained.
Female politicians active on social media networks like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter have been subjected to sexist comments, scornful tweets, often threatening their family members.
She noted that more candidates are encountering the risk of being bullied when they share their private pictures, their statuses and their life.
Veteran MPs Phoebe Asiyo and Julia Ojiambo noted that women were still undergoing physical harassment by their rivals, especially in rallies.
They emphasised that having women politicians is representative of society and will ensure that all people have a balanced voice in government.
The Kenyan Government should protect women politicians from harassment, beatings and intimidation in the countdown to August polls, female candidates have said following a spate of attacks and at least one death related to the election.
“The dangers that women aspirants face are unacceptable and have been tolerated for far too long,” said Ojiambo. “Something must be done.”
The lobby group documented a case in May this in which ODM Nairobi County Woman Representative Candidate Esther Passaris was locked in a room at the University of Nairobi by a group of men demanding Sh150,000 to allow her to hold a planned rally. The door was eventually unlocked when her supporters overpowered those of her opponent.
Kenya created the 47 County Woman’s Representative seats in 2013 to boost women’s numbers in parliament after it was acknowledged that women have struggled to make gains in the face of violence, intimidation and sexism
Another case which has been documented involves Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo, whose bodyguard was killed during the ODM primaries in April after he was run over and killed by an opponent’s vehicle. A few days later her house was razed.
COWVE further cited findings of state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) which indicates that women aspirants suffered targeted attacks in Kenya’s primaries, including assault, a death threat and burning of property.
It called on the government to disqualify candidates and political parties involved in the violence.
Sarah Korere, who is the Jubilee Party candidate for the Laikipia North parliamentary seat, had the contents of her car looted in April while campaigning.
Korere said that since nominated to the legislature in 2013 she had been shouted down and called a prostitute at public meetings and cursed by elders.
Sheila Githaiga was forced to drop her bid for Kieni West parliamentary seat after she was trailed by 30 men riding on motorbikes and eventually attacked, her windscreen smashed by thugs who told her to drop her bid.
COWVE said these incidents ought to be a wake-up call for the authorities to ensure women who exercise their constitutional right to contest are not singled out for violence purely on the basis of gender.