Nearly 1,000 people took to the streets of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, on Monday after a woman wearing a miniskirt was stripped naked at a bus stop by a group of men who accused her of dressing indecently.
Word of the attack, which occurred last week, spread after a video that captured it went viral, sparking a solidarity movement on social media under the hashtag #MyDressMyChoice. Hours before the march, a second video emerged of a similar attack on another woman.
Many of the demonstrators wore miniskirts in solidarity. But as they made their way through town, things took an ugly turn when men turned up to harass them for participating in the march.
Men opposing the protest ripped a T-shirt and waved around the shreds to show what they would do to a woman dressed in revealing clothing.
A sizable contingent of men, led by prominent local activist Boniface Mwangi, turned out to support the protest. “They say miniskirts are foreign,” Mwangi tweeted, referring to one of the most common criticisms of Kenyan women wearing revealing clothing. “So is the Bible.”
Protest organizers from a Facebook group for local mothers read aloud a petition they later presented to government officials, asking for the men behind the attack to be brought to justice.
Protesters scrawled messages in the dust on a bus window at the scene of the assault. The video of the incident appeared to show that several of the attackers were touts who work on the local minibuses known as matatus.
Sexual harassment is nothing new in Kenya, though the recent attacks show a marked escalation, at least in the public consciousness. More than 80% of the population of Kenya is Christian, and conservative groups have argued that women should dress modestly in accordance with traditional “African values.” Activists like Mwangi have countered by pointing out that traditional dress in many Kenyan tribes involves clothing that these same conservatives would hardly describe as modest.
All photos by Emily Johnson
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