Ahead of Kenyan elections, female politicians face abuse and attacks | Uhuru Kenyatta News

Liz Njue, a Kenyan psychologist who wanted to run for a county assembly seat, had just arrived to vote in her party’s primary when opponents attacked her, pulling her hair and tearing her blouse. She ran away without voting and lost the race.

Njue is one of dozens of female candidates who were physically assaulted while campaigning for the August 9 presidential, legislative and local elections, according to the Kenya Women’s Parliamentary Association.

Such violence deters all but the most determined women from protesting, said Mercy Mwangi, the association’s program coordinator, adding that most cases go unreported.

“People say, ‘We want women in politics, we want more women to get those political seats.’ But how are they going to get them if they are humiliated? said Njue, 39.

She reported the attack to the police, but said there were no arrests. Police spokesman Bruno Isohi Shioso said Njau’s case remains open and active.

It is unclear who is organizing most of the attacks, but the candidates suspect their competitors.

None of the major political parties responded to requests for comment on the issue.

Violence against women is not limited to the political arena. Almost half of women in Kenya are victims of gender-based violence, according to the Gender Violence Recovery Center at Nairobi Women’s Hospital.

A backlash against women

Candidates say they are constantly intimidated.

Mary Mugure, a former sex worker, received threatening phone calls and text messages as she ran for a county assembly this year. In November, two men on motorbikes attacked her as she was walking down the street. “It was just to intimidate me, to make me resign,” said Mugure, who continued his campaign but lost the nomination.

A 2020 study published by Cambridge University Press said a constitutional requirement established a decade earlier – that no gender should have more than two-thirds of elected or appointed positions – may have created a backlash against women.

The quota was never reached. There are 75 women in the 349-member lower house, with 47 seats reserved specifically for women. Women make up about a third of the upper house. Only three out of 47 county governors are women.

No woman has served as president or vice-president of Kenya, although one of the main presidential candidates, Raila Odinga, has a running mate, Martha Karua.

In neighboring Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, more than a third of parliamentarians are women, the Inter-Parliamentary Union said. Ethiopia and Tanzania have female presidents.

to fight on

Sometimes there is a happy ending. Sarah Korere, the Laikipia North constituency legislator, was assaulted by a fellow parliamentarian in 2016.

She ended up taking her seat the following year, moving from a women-only seat to the general public — a move that comes with a significantly bigger budget. She used that money and donations to build a new school, she said.

His attacker was jailed for a year in 2020 but released after three months. He is now trying to get his seat back. But these days he’s more polite, Korere said.

Opponent Matthew Lempurkel could not be reached for comment. His attorney James Orengo did not return calls seeking comment.

“When he [Lempurkel] was imprisoned, it was a very good message,” she said. “It was a win for Kenyan women.”

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